9 million told to evacuate after super typhoon Nanmadol slams southern Japan, heads toward Tokyo

Nanmadol, seen here on Sept. 18, is one of the strongest typhoons to ever make landfall in Japan.
Nanmadol, seen here on Sept. 18, is one of the strongest typhoons to ever make landfall in Japan. (Image credit: Zoom Earth (JMA/NOAA/CIRA, Himawari-8))

Officials in Japan have ordered 9 million people to evacuate as the powerful super typhoon Nanmadol pummels the island nation with winds gusting up to 145 mph (234 km/h) and bears down on Tokyo, home to nearly 14 million inhabitants. 

Dozens of people were injured and two people have died since the storm made landfall on Sunday morning (Sept. 18) on Kyushu, Japan's southernmost large island, and then on Monday (Sept. 19), Nanmadol slammed into Honshu, the largest of Japan's islands, BBC News reported

As the country braces for extensive flooding and landslides, an estimated 350,000 homes have already lost power and tens of thousands of people are being housed in emergency shelters, according to the BBC. Nanmadol is the 14th typhoon of the season and it's one of the most powerful storms to strike Japan in decades, drenching the western part of the country with record rainfall, according to Reuters.

"We need to remain highly vigilant for heavy rains, gales, high waves and storm surges," a representative of the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said at a news conference, and the JMA predicted that nearly 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rain will drench central Japan's Tokai region over the next 24 hours, Reuters reported. 

Other areas are expected to be soaked with as much as 16 inches (40 cm) of rain during a 24-hour period, according to the BBC.

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The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) tweeted on Sept. 18 that Nanmadol was "one of the strongest typhoons ever seen," warning of torrential rainfall, coastal floods and winds powerful enough to knock down houses. Officials issued flooding advisories for Tokyo and the adjacent coastal Kanagawa prefecture, warning that heavy rains could also lead to landslides, Bloomberg reported

On Friday (Sept. 16), Nanmadol's winds reached a peak intensity of 155 mph (250 km/h), prompting the U.S. Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) to classify Nanmadol as a "super typhoon" — a tropical storm with sustained winds of 150 mph (240 km/h) or greater, comparable with the strength of a Category 4 hurricane, according to Al Jazeera

Based on the storm's trajectory and central pressure similarity to 1945's Makurazaki Typhoon, which struck Japan on Sept. 17 of that year, experts predict that Nanmadol could generate a storm surge of more than 6.6 feet (2 meters) in Kagoshima Bay, according to Yale Climate Connections.

Forecasters predict that Nanmadol will reach Tokyo on Tuesday (Sept. 20), and then continue eastward over the island of Honshu before heading out to sea on Wednesday (Sept. 21), Al Jazeera reported.

Originally published on Live Science.

Mindy Weisberger
Live Science Contributor

Mindy Weisberger is an editor at Scholastic and a former Live Science channel editor and senior writer. She has reported on general science, covering climate change, paleontology, biology, and space. Mindy studied film at Columbia University; prior to Live Science she produced, wrote and directed media for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Her videos about dinosaurs, astrophysics, biodiversity and evolution appear in museums and science centers worldwide, earning awards such as the CINE Golden Eagle and the Communicator Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post and How It Works Magazine.