A powerful typhoon is on track to batter parts of western Japan that were hit earlier this month by devastating flooding and landslides, Japanese officials warned today.
Typhoon Jongdari is currently packing winds of nearly 200 kilometres (125 miles) an hour and is forecast to hit the country's main island tomorrow night, Japan's Meteorological Agency said.
It is taking a relatively rare northwest course, which will put the disaster-hit areas directly in its crosshairs. Most typhoons that cross Japan track northeast.
Authorities are warning of heavy rain, landslides, strong winds and high waves, and urging people to consider early evacuation.
Today the storm was about 1,200 kilometres southwest of Tokyo, heading towards Chichijima Island, but it is expected to barrel towards the western Chugoku region by late tomorrow.
The region was hit earlier this month by record rainfall that caused flooding and landslides, killing around 220 people. It was Japan's worst weather-related disaster in decades, and many residents of affected areas are still living in shelters or damaged homes.
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"Since this will be the first heavy rain since the downpours, residents need to be fully on alert," Ryuta Kurora, chief forecaster at the weather agency, told reporters.
"In the disaster zone, even normal rainfall could lead to damage from landslides or flooding of rivers," Kurora said.
"The situation has significantly changed" because of the disaster in western Japan, he said. "Early evacuation is really needed."
Officials are particularly cautious after the deadly rains earlier this month because many people became trapped after failing to heed evacuation orders, while some critics said orders were issued too late.
Local authorities in affected areas were bracing for the incoming storm even as residents continued to clear mud from their houses and vehicles. In the remote town of Kumano in Hiroshima prefecture, local officials scrambled to devise ways to keep 24,000 residents informed about the incoming typhoon.
"We are making announcements through a network of loudspeakers set up across our town," said Yoshihiro Minpo, a disaster management official.
The town was considering asking residents to avoid visiting homes that were damaged in the rains over the weekend, particularly in one neighbourhood that was badly hit by huge, killer landslides, he told AFP.
"We are using our own FM radio station, as well as an emergency announcement system to deliver messages to area mobile phones," he said.
Japan is now in typhoon season, and is regularly struck by major storm systems during the summer and autumn.