Japan issues highest alert over Typhoon Halong

TOKYO: Japan's weather agency on Saturday issued its highest alert as Typhoon Halong barrelled towards the southwest of the country, warning of heavy rain and strong winds from a storm that has grounded more than 470 flights. The warning means that the storm poses a threat to life and could inflict massive damage, the meteorological agency said. The alert was issued for Mie prefecture, some 300 kilometres (190 miles) west of Tokyo, as the outer bands of the storm were already lashing the region and other areas of southwestern Japan, the agency said. "Please remain on the alert against a rise of rivers, floods as well as damage from landslides in Mie prefecture," the agency said on its website. Satoshi Ebihara, the Japanese weather agency's chief forecaster, also told a televised news conference that the levels of torrential rain monitored in Mie were already "unprecedented". "We are in an abnormal situation where serious danger is imminent," Ebihara said. "Please follow evacuation advisories from your local communities without any delay," he added. "Please do your best to protect your lives." Yokkaichi and Suzuka, in northern Mie, issued evacuation instructions -- stricter than advisories but still not compulsory -- to some 512,000 residents in total, city officials and local media said. "We are strongly urging our residents to evacuate, while we are hurriedly setting up temporary shelters across the city," a Yokkaichi official said.

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