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Heavy rains lashed parts of western Japan on Thursday as tropical storm Krosa bore down on the country, forcing the cancellations of hundreds of flights and trains as authorities advised more than 400,000 people to evacuate.
Krosa, a Khmer word for crane, was heading northeast towards the smallest Japanese main island of Shikoku with sustained winds of 108 km per hour (67 mph) and gusts up to 162 km per hour (100 mph), with landfall likely in early afternoon, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
Authorities warned that the total rainfall in some areas could surpass 1,000 mm (39 inches) over 24 hours to Friday morning and advised some 446,000 people to evacuate, but as of Thursday morning there were no reports of major flooding and only a handful of minor injuries.
"Given the predictions of record rains and high winds, we'd like to ask people in the affected areas to avoid going outside if they can, and to make early preparations to evacuate if needed according to directions of the local authorities," Yoshihide Suga, chief cabinet secretary, told a news conference.
Eighteen people, including a baby, became trapped on Wednesday when a river rose suddenly as they were having an barbecue. None were injured and preparations for their rescue were being made on Thursday morning.
The Shinkansen bullet train service was halted in one part of western Japan, as were all local train lines, and several highways were closed. A total of 679 flights were cancelled, NHK national television said, snarling travel plans for thousands at the end of Japan's main summer holiday period.
"My flight got cancelled today, and without any trains running, there isn't anything I can do," one man told NHK.
More than 200 people died in torrential rains and flooding in parts of western Japan in 2018, areas that could also be hit by severe rains from Krosa.