TYPHOON HAGIBIS DEVASTATES JAPAN; NATION GRAPPLES WITH PREDICTIONS OF MORE FREQUENT INTENSE STORMS
On October 12, Typhoon Hagibis made landfall in Izu Peninsula, Japan, sweeping across the northern region of the country and causing widespread flooding (CNN). The death toll hit 74 as of October 15, according to the national Japanese broadcaster NHK. Powerful winds and rain burst 73 levees on rivers across the nation, submerged over 13,000 houses and at least partially destroyed over 1,100 homes (NHK). Although Japan typically experiences five or six typhoons a year, Typhoon Hagibis marks one of the strongest to hit the country in years.
Climate studies suggest Japan will continue to see more frequent and stronger typhoons due to warming seas. Scientists have found evidence that tropical cyclones in the Northwest Pacific Ocean Basin are reaching maximum intensities farther north of where they used to. This means parts of northern Japan that typically see weaker storms will be more heavily impacted in the future (Washington Post).
The devastating effects of Typhoon Hagibis as well as Typhoon Faxai, which hit Japan this past September, leave the nation questioning whether its world-class flood control system can withstand the effects of climate change. Shiro Maeno, a professor of hydraulic engineering at Okayama University, told reporters: “Things we never could have considered have started happening in the last few years,” (New York Times). Economic losses from destroyed homes and public infrastructure total over $9 billion (CNN). As Japan’s population ages, the ability of elderly residents to clean up waterlogged homes following a disaster is also waning (Reuters).
In the weeks to come, thousands of Japanese residents will continue to face the impacts of the storm. Over 230,000 were evacuated ahead of the storm, and an estimated 5,500 people remain in evacuation shelters (CNN).