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People threatened by fierce Typhoon Hagibis in Japan advised to prepare for disaster

A handmade lamp made of an empty jar, tissue paper, aluminum foil and cooking oil, as recommended by the Shimin Bosai Kenkyuusho (citizen disaster prevention research institute), is seen in Tokyo's Koto Ward on Sept. 12, 2019. (Mainichi/Yuki Ogawa)
Sharp glass fragments from a window are seen in a man's bedroom in Kisarazu, Chiba Prefecture, in this photo provided by the man.

Typhoon Hagibis that is expected to hit the Japanese archipelago on the weekend is larger than Typhoon Faxai that caused serious damage in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, and other areas in September, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) warns.

The JMA and other government organizations have urged residents of areas likely to be affected by the tropical storm to fully prepare for the disaster.

Typhoon Faxai, this year's 15th, caused a power blackout in extensive areas of the Kanto region around Tokyo, affecting as many as 935,000 households. Work to resume power supply was largely delayed in some areas.

The September 2018 Hokkaido earthquake also triggered a large-scale power outage in the northernmost prefecture.

"My most painful experience was that I was unable to use hot water because my water heater had no power. I took a cold shower while shivering," recalls Natsumi Endo, 32, a resident of Noboribetsu, Hokkaido.

She also remembers that the battery in her smartphone, which she used to contact her family and friends and gather information, almost ran out of power, prompting her to recharge the battery at her workplace equipped with an in-house power generator. She subsequently bought a battery charger that can be connected with a cigarette lighter port in a car. She says she now refuels her car before the fuel warning lamp is illuminated.

Experts are advising people to get lights that can be used at the time of a power failure. "Needless to say, you should prepare flashlights and batteries, but you also need to confirm the types of batteries and how to replace them in advance," said Takao Sakaguchi, a board member of Shimin Bosai Kenkyusho (citizen disaster prevention research institute).

The institute's website shows how to make a lamp and cooking stove using an empty bottle or an empty can, tissue paper, aluminum foil and cooking oil.

"Cooking oil doesn't easily catch fire so it can be used safely. If necessary, I'd like you to make lamps and stoves with your families," Sakaguchi added.

Typhoon-generated strong winds can also smash windows and many heavy objects can be sent flying.

A man in his 50s living in the Chiba Prefecture city of Kisarazu said a window in his second-floor bedroom was destroyed by strong winds in Typhoon Faxai. He turned on a flashlight he had put by his pillow and found sharp glass fragments that broke from the window just above his head.

"They looked like swords. If I had stood up, they'd have got stuck in my body. I should've closed the curtain," he said.

During a typhoon, experts underscore the need to both keep objects from being blown away by strong winds and prevent damage from flying objects.

Sakaguchi advises people to close curtains or blinds, put shatterproof film, cardboard and adhesive tape in the shape of X and + on windows. Moreover, Maruyama recommends that people move to rooms without windows and put on shoes even indoors if windows are broken. In such a case, windows or doors on the other side should be opened to prevent strong winds that gust into the room through a broken window from blowing off the roof.

At the time of a typhoon, water can gush out of drain outlets in bathrooms, restrooms or those for washing machines even if surrounding areas are not flooded once water levels in the sewage system sharply rise and cause the water to flow back into drainage pipes inside homes.

As a preventive measure, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry recommends that people make water bags and use them to block drain outlets. A water bag comprises double-layered 45-liter plastic bags, half filled with water. Air should be removed and the inner bag should be closed tightly while the outer bag should be tied with rope.

Water bags can also be used to block water from entering homes if they are contained in cardboard boxes and placed at the entrances in place of sandbags.

If a house is flooded even below the floor, water can gush out of underfloor containers in kitchens and other rooms. Water immersion can be lessened by placing heavy items on the lids of such containers.

Important documents, expensive furniture and clothes that can be used for several days should be placed in higher spots.

(Japanese original by Yuki Ogawa, Eri Misonou and Sooryeon Kim, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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