TOKYO – When a powerful typhoon hit Japan, Rugby World Cup organizers on Thursday canceled two upcoming matches that were originally scheduled to be played on Saturday in stadiums in the direct path of the storm.
The cancellations were announced as cities, railways and airlines crashed to prepare for the storm, which is expected to make landfall this weekend.
When they decided to cancel the two rugby matches – between New Zealand and Italy in Toyota City and between England and France in Yokohama – World Cup organizers said they had rushed to develop contingency plans.
As for a much-awaited match between Japan and Scotland scheduled for Sunday, organizers said they would decide whether to continue the game on Sunday morning.
Japan Rail said it would probably close several train routes, including bullet train lines between Tokyo and Osaka. And All Nippon Airways said it founded all domestic flights from Tokyo's Haneda and Narita airports on Saturday, when the typhoon is expected to land. Both ANA and Japan Airlines said they would also likely cancel flights over the coming weekend at other airports across the country.
According to Japan's Meteorological Agency, Typhoon Hagibis is about to depart from the sea south of Japan, hits the main island near Tokyo to the east, and Wakayama and Mie prefectures to the west, packing winds of about 100 miles per hour.
Hiroyuki Yamada, associate professor of meteorology at the Ryukyus University in Okinawa, said that the number of typhoons hitting Japan has not increased in recent decades, but the number of more severe storms has increased. Yamada said studies indicated that the intensity of the storm had increased as summer temperatures on the Pacific Ocean south of Japan have gradually risen.
The storm's strategy follows another powerful and damaging typhoon that hit Japan just a month earlier, when Typhoon Faxai knocked out power to more than 930,000 households across seven prefectures and destroyed nearly 200 homes in September.
The damage in Chiba Prefecture, just outside Tokyo, was severe enough that more than 70 homes were still without power as of Wednesday, and some roads were clogged with fallen trees or clay landslides.
On Thursday, Chiba had called 12,600 officials to help prepare for the upcoming typhoon and serve in evacuation shelters or help public health nurses during a storm. It also worked with Tokyo Electric to secure backup generators to keep power running under the typhoon.
In Tokyo, the city government warned residents to check their nearest evacuation shelter and replenish emergency supplies, and it interrupted a planned food festival for the weekend.
Makiko Inoue and Eimi Yamamitsu contributed to the reporting.