Tropical storm Meari unleashed heavy rains on Japan’s main Honshu island as it headed northward towards the capital, Tokyo, according to Japanese weather officials.

The national meteorological agency said Meari made landfall in Shizuoka prefecture south-west of Tokyo on Saturday afternoon, bringing sudden heavy rains and blasting winds to a widespread area and prompting warnings about mudslides and flooding.

More than 72,000 people in the area’s main city of Shizuoka were told to evacuate due to possible landslides.

Meari, packing sustained winds of up to 45 mph, passed over Shizuoka and was travelling at a speed of about 12 mph. The storm is expected to continue northward before veering to the east, swinging over the Pacific Ocean by early Sunday.

The Tokyo area was hammered by periodic downpours starting in the late morning. Warnings of high waves in coastal areas were issued for Tokyo, Kanagawa prefecture south-west of Tokyo, and other nearby areas.

The authorities warned against going near rivers and other waters, as the levels may rise suddenly. Rainfall was expected to worsen in Tokyo and areas north of the city in the evening, they said. Warnings of flooding, strong winds and heavy rainfall were issued for the Tokyo area.

Japanese media reports showed video of rivers rising perilously, almost reaching bridge decks, as rain splashed down on homes and people scurried in the streets, clinging to their umbrellas.

Japan is in the middle of the Bon summer holiday and people are travelling in droves, though some have had to cancel or change their plans.

The Rock in Japan festival, which began a week ago in Chiba prefecture east of Tokyo, cancelled the final day of the event on Saturday and promised ticket refunds.

Nippon Airways cancelled some local flights in response to the storm. The low-cost carrier Skymark Airlines also cancelled some flights. Bullet train services were delayed, and speed limits in tunnels in Shizuoka were temporarily lowered as a cautionary measure. Sections of the Tomei Expressway, which connects Tokyo with Nagoya, were temporarily blocked off because of the heavy rainfall.

Northern Japan has had some heavy rainfall recently and worries are growing about landslides. Rainfall is forecast to subside by early Sunday in the Tokyo area before hitting north-eastern Japan.

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 bring down power lines.

Source: The Guardian