October 12, 2019
TOKYO: Japan braced on Friday for a powerful typhoon barrelling toward Tokyo that has already forced the cancellation of two Rugby World Cup matches, disrupted the Suzuka Grand Prix and grounded flights.
Overnight, Typhoon “Hagibis” was downgraded slightly from its “super typhoon” status, but was still forecast to be packing maximum gusts of 216 kilometers per hour when it makes landfall late Saturday.
Japan’s Meteorological Agency (JMA) warned that areas from the west to the northeast of the country would experience “brutal winds and violent seas.”
“We ask you to evacuate or take measures to ensure safety early, before winds and rain intensify, and before it gets dark, in order to protect your own life and the lives of your loved ones,” JMA forecaster Yasushi Kajiwara said in a press briefing.
“The rain could be record-breaking,” he added. “The predicted conditions and severity of a possible disaster are tremendous.”
The massive storm is expected to dump up to half a meter of rain on the Tokyo area in the 24 hours to midday on Sunday, with up to 80 centimeters forecast for the central Tokai area.
The system has wreaked havoc even before making landfall.
On Friday morning, organizers said they would cancel Saturday’s entire program at the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka, pushing qualifiers to the following day.
“The FIA (governing body) and Formula One support this decision in the interest of safety of the spectators, competitors and everyone at the Suzuka circuit,” an FIA statement said.
The decision means the teams and drivers will have just Friday’s two practice sessions in which to prepare for Sunday morning’s qualifying session.
And the mega-storm has also forced Rugby World Cup organizers to cancel two Saturday fixtures: England-France in Yokohama outside Tokyo, and New Zealand-Italy in Toyota City.
The organizers said it had been a “very difficult decision,” but Italy, who still had a mathematical chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals, were livid.
Captain Sergio Parisse fumed that the game would have been played if the All Blacks had needed the points, though New Zealand denied any preferential treatment.
The storm could also jeopardize a key match-up between Scotland and Japan on Sunday.
Scotland need to beat the hosts in Yokohama on Sunday to have a chance of reaching the quarter-finals. But if the match is canceled they will be going home.
Officials are not expected to make a final decision on that match until Sunday morning, after they have assessed potential damage to the venue and transport links.
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