Strong typhoon makes landfall near Tokyo, snarling transport

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Workers remove a fallen signboard hit by typhoon Faxai in Kamakura, Kanagawa prefecture on September 9, 2019. (AFP / JIJI PRESS)
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A truck turned over by high winds lies on a highway in Tomisato on September 9, 2019. (AFP / JIJI PRESS)
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A crowd of passengers is seen as they wait for operations of train services to resume in a snarl caused by Typhoon Faxai at Urawa station in Saitama, north of Tokyo, on September 9, 2019. (Kyodo/via REUTERS)
Updated 09 September 2019

Strong typhoon makes landfall near Tokyo, snarling transport

  • Scores of train lines were stopped, snarling the morning commute for millions in the greater Tokyo area
  • Around four to five typhoons make landfall in Japan every year, but it is unusual for them to do so near Tokyo

TOKYO: A powerful typhoon that battered Tokyo overnight with ferocious winds and driving rain caused commuter chaos on Monday morning, with trains halted and more than 100 flights cancelled.
Typhoon Faxai, packing winds of up to 216 kilometres (134 miles) per hour, made landfall in Chiba just east of the capital before dawn, after barrelling through Tokyo Bay.
The transport disruptions unleashed by the storm came less than two weeks before the start of the Rugby World Cup, and delayed the arrival of the Australian team -- a reminder that Japan's typhoon season could present challenges for organisers.
Forecasters had warned of potential record wind speeds for a typhoon in the region, and non-mandatory evacuation orders were still in place at 8:00 am (2300 GMT) for nearly 340,000 people.
Authorities said more than 2,000 people had taken refuge in shelters opened to accommodate those complying with the evacuation advisories.
More than 30 people were injured in the storm, the Kyodo news agency said, including a woman who sustained serious injuries after pillars at a golf range were toppled by high winds and hit a house.
And on Sunday night, eight surfers were rescued after being swept out to sea in high waves off Shizuoka in central Japan.
Authorities said two of the surfers were sent to hospital but none of those rescued were in serious condition.




People walk through heavy rain caused by a typhoon in Tokyo on Sept. 8, 2019. (Kyodo News via AP)

The strong winds downed trees and power lines, with left 910,000 people without electricity in the Tokyo area on Monday morning, NHK said.
And at least 10 homes were damaged in Shizuoka, with windows shattered and cars flipped on their sides, local media reported.
Television footage showed a huge roof collapsing at a gasoline station in Tateyama, south of Tokyo, with pumps crushed underneath.
Elsewhere, scaffolding was torn from buildings and protective sheeting hung to keep construction debris off the streets was crumpled and torn by the storm.
While the damage was relatively light given the wind speeds, it was enough to cause chaos in the capital's notoriously busy morning commute.
The overland East Japan Railway train system was largely halted in the early hours of operation while tracks were checked for fallen trees and other debris from the storm.
"We need to inspect tracks and check if there is any damage," a train company spokesman told AFP earlier.
The storm also caused delays and stoppages on subway lines, leading to massive crowds at some stations in the busy metropolitan area that is home to 36 million people.
Bullet train services that were suspended during the storm were largely resumed, though some were operating on a reduced schedule. Some roads were blocked by downed trees.




Commuters line up at Shinjuku Station, waiting for train platforms to open on Sept. 9, 2019, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

And at least 138 domestic flights were cancelled, with the weather even delaying the arrival of the Australian rugby team due to arrive in Tokyo Monday ahead of the World Cup that kicks off on September 20.
The French team managed to sneak in just ahead of the typhoon and reach their training camp near Mount Fuji.
However, the Wallabies squad found their preparations disrupted by Faxai's arrival.
By mid-Monday morning, the storm had moved back offshore and was headed northeast away from Japan, back into the Pacific.
The weather agency warned that landslides were still possible in China as well as the northern Fukushima region as the storm headed away from land.
Japan is used to severe tropical storms and typhoons during late summer and autumn.
Strong typhoon Krosa lashed western Japan in mid-August, bringing strong winds and torrential rain that claimed one life.
And in late August, heavy rains left three people dead when massive floods also hit western Japan.
But this year, the typhoon season coincides with the Rugby World Cup, presenting a possible headache for teams and organisers.
Tournament rules say that if a pool match has to be scrapped due to extreme weather, it is classed as a draw, which could have a major impact on what is set to be a very close competition.


Taliban rule out cease-fire until it is agreed in talks

Updated 12 August 2020

Taliban rule out cease-fire until it is agreed in talks

  • President Ghani’s order to release 400 hardcore Taliban prisoners opens way for negotiations

KABUL: The Taliban have rejected calls for a truce before the long-awaited talks with the government get underway. They said that the possibility of a cease-fire could be debated only during the talks.

“When our prisoners are released, we will be ready for the talks,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told Arab News on Tuesday.

“A cease-fire or reduction of violence can be among the items in the agenda of the talks,” he said.

This follows President Ashraf Ghani signing a decree for the release of 400 hardcore Taliban prisoners on Monday — who Kabul said were responsible for some of the worst attacks in the country in recent years — thereby removing the last obstacle to the start of the negotiations set by the Taliban.

However, Kabul has yet to announce the date of their release.

Feraidoon Khawzoon, a spokesman for the government-appointed peace council, said that Doha, Qatar, would be the likely venue.

“Deliberations are continuing, and no decision has been made on a firm date yet,” he said.

Ghani pledged to release the prisoners after the Loya Jirga, or traditional assembly, voiced support for their freedom.

After three days of deliberations the Jirga, which comprises 3,400 delegates, said that its decision was for the sake of “the cessation of bloodshed” and to remove “the obstacle to peace talks.”

After the Jirga’s announcement, Ghani said that “the ball was now in the Taliban’s court” and that they needed to enforce a nationwide cease-fire and begin talks to bring an end to more than 40 years of war, particularly the latest chapter in a conflict that started with the Taliban’s ousting from power in the US-led invasion in late 2001.

The exchange of prisoners between the government and the Taliban was part of a deal signed between the insurgent group and the US in Doha in February
this year.

The prisoner swap program — involving the release of 5,000 Taliban inmates in return for 1,000 security forces held by the group — was to be completed within 10 days in early March, followed by the crucial intra-Afghan talks.

February’s deal between the Taliban emissaries and US delegates, led by the US envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, came after 18 months of intensive and secret talks, amid growing public frustration in the US about the Afghan war — America’s longest in history.

Ghani, whose government was sidelined from the February accord, initially voiced his opposition to freeing the Taliban inmates.

However, faced with increasing pressure from the US, Kabul began releasing 4,600 prisoners in a phased manner.

The intra-Afghan talks are also crucial for US President Donald Trump, who is standing for reelection in November and is keen to use the pull-out of forces and the start of negotiations as examples of his successful foreign policy. However, experts say the next stage will not be easy.

Analyst and former journalist Taj Mohammad told Arab News: “The talks will be a long, complicated process, with lots of ups and downs. It took 18 months for the Taliban and US to agree on two points; the withdrawal of all US troops and the Taliban pledging to cut ties with militant groups such as Al-Qaeda. Now, imagine, how long it will take for the completion of a very complicated process of talks between Afghans who will debate women’s rights, minorities rights, election, Islamic values, … the form of government and so on.”

For some ordinary Afghans on the streets, however, the planned talks have revived hopes for peace and security and “are more needed in Afghanistan than in any other country.”

“I am more optimistic now than in the past. All sides have realized they cannot win by force and may have decided to rise to the occasion and come together,” Fateh Shah, a 45-year-old civil servant from Kabul, said.

Others spoke of their dreams to “go back home.”

“I have been away from my village for 19 years, and as soon as peace comes, we will pack up and go there,” said Rasool Dad, a 50-year-old porter who lives as a war-displaced person in Kabul, talking of his desire to return to his birthplace in southern Helmand province.

However, 30-year-old banker Sharif Amiri wasn’t very optimistic about the future.

“Even if the talks turn out to be successful, that will not mean an end to the war or the restoration of security. There are spoilers in the region, at home and at an international level who will try to sabotage peace here,” he said, hinting at rivalries among countries in the region, including major powers such as Russia, China and the US, who have used Afghanistan as a direct and indirect battleground for years.