TOKYO (AP) — Tropical Storm Meari unleashed heavy rains on Japan's main Honshu island as it headed northward Saturday toward the capital, Tokyo, according to Japanese weather officials.
The Japan Meteorological Agency warned Meari was on course to make landfall by about noon, bringing sudden heavy rains and blasting winds, possibly setting off mudslides and flooding.
Shizuoka Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, was told to brace for extremely heavy rainfall. More than 72,000 people in the area's main city of Shizuoka were told to evacuate because of possible landslides.
Meari, packing sustained winds of up to 72 kilometers (45 miles) per hour, was moving over coastal waters at a speed of about 20 kilometers (12 miles) an hour and was expected to continue northward, making landfall before veering eastward, swinging over the Pacific Ocean by early Sunday.
The Tokyo area was hammered by periodic downpours starting in the late morning and thunder rolled. Warnings on high waves in coastal areas were issued for Tokyo, Kanagawa Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, and other nearby areas.
The authorities warned against going near rivers or other waters, as the levels may rise suddenly.
Japan is in the middle of the Bon summer holidays, and vacationers are traveling in droves but some have had to cancel or change plans.
The Rock in Japan Festival 2022, which began a week ago in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, canceled the event for Saturday, the final day of the outdoor festival, and promised ticket refunds.
All Nippon Airways has canceled some local flights in response to the storm. Low-cost carrier Skymark Airlines also canceled some flights. Bullet train services were delayed, and speed limits in tunnels in Shizuoka were temporarily lowered as a cautionary measure. Authorities warned more train lines may be affected and roads blocked.
Northern Japan has had some heavy rainfall lately, and worries were growing about landslides.
The world’s third largest economy has often seen deaths and injuries caused by seasonal storms and torrential rainfall that damage dams, blow off rooftops and down power lines.
Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama