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Sunday October 20th, 2019 12:34PM

Super typhoon on track to drench Japan's main island

By The Associated Press
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TOKYO (AP) — Japan is bracing for a super typhoon on track to hit central and eastern regions over the three-day weekend, with sport events and domestic flights canceled and sandbags given away to minimize potential damage from torrential rains and strong winds.

Typhoon Hagibis has already caused cancellations of two Rugby World Cup matches that were to be played Saturday. Organizers canceled the England-France match planned in Yokohama, near Tokyo, and New Zealand-Italy game in Toyota, in central Japan.

Organizers also called off a marathon in Sendai and other northern coastal towns. Formula One auto racing in Suzuka in central Japan may also be affected.

Japan's Defense Ministry scrapped the first two days of the annual Oct. 12-14 navy review.

Hagibis, which means speed in Filipino, had maximum sustained winds of up to 270 kilometers (168 miles) and stronger gusts at noon Thursday near Chichi island in the Pacific, about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) off Tokyo's southern coast. It was moving north at the speed of 20 kph (12 mph) and is expected to weaken over cooler waters as it nears Japan's main island.

It's the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane.

The Japan Meteorological Agency says the typhoon is forecast to hit ashore in the Tokyo area late Saturday and urged people to take precautions to avoid potentially life-threatening danger. Japan's central Pacific coast may see torrential rains beginning Friday while high waves and tides may cause flooding.

Airlines and train services anticipate cancellations affecting holidaymakers traveling over the three-day weekend that includes Sports Day holiday on Monday. All Nippon Airways said it is grounding all domestic flights Saturday in and out of Tokyo's Haneda and Narita international airports.

Depending on the typhoon's movement, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines said they may cancel flights as early as Friday.

The approaching typhoon is spreading fear especially in Chiba, near Tokyo, which was hit by Typhoon Faxai last month and many residents are still recovering from damage to their homes. The typhoon tore many electrical poles and snapped cables, triggering extensive outages that lasted for weeks, contributing to heat illnesses and other health problems among elderly people.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, at a regular news conference, said the government will do the utmost for the people's safety, and urged residents near the typhoon route to take precautions early.

In some places, preparations have started.

Local offices in Chiba city started distributing free sandbags to shield against flooding. The city also cautioned against power outages from potential typhoon damage and urged residents to make sure they have enough food, water and their phones are charged.

In Chofu in Tokyo's western suburbs, workers at the city hall renovation site reinforced scaffolding and placed protective nets to prevent equipment and construction materials from being blown off.

At a winery in Yamanashi, north of Tokyo, workers picked grapes Thursday to save them from the typhoon, Japan's NHK television said.

East Japan Railway Co. said it may suspend services on most local lines and bullet trains around Tokyo before the typhoon arrives.

Japan is regularly hit by Pacific storms, including Faxai in September. Typhoon Jebi flooded a terminal and a runway at Kansai International Airport last year.

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This story corrects spelling of a rugby match venue.

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Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

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