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21 Oct 2004 13:26
Japan was searching for survivors on Thursday after the country’s deadliest typhoon in more than a decade killed at least 61 people as it crushed houses, overturned trains and stranded passengers on flooded highways.
Typhoon Tokage, which tore up the archipelago for a day before easing on Thursday morning, killed 61 people and left 22 missing, according to public broadcaster NHK. Police reported that 269 people were injured.
Rescuers searched by boat among flooded houses for the missing.
Trains that had stopped before the storm were toppled by the fierce winds.
Sixty houses were damaged, with some reduced to rubble, after 591 landslides that took their heaviest toll in southern Japan.
Helicopters and rafts overnight rescued 37 people, most of them in their mid-sixties, who were stranded on top of a tourist bus trapped in floodwater at Maizuru, 400km west of Tokyo.
“We were standing on the roof of the bus and I was shaking as the water level went up to my knees. My knees still hurt,” one male passenger told NHK.
Sixteen other residents in Maizuru were also rescued by helicopters and boats from the armed forces, Jiji Press said.
About 170 rescue operators, including 101 troops, spent the day digging through mud for a potential survivor of a massive landslide at Tamano in western Okayama prefecture, but discovered late on Thursday that he was dead.
“Unfortunately, we found the body of the remaining one after discovering four others in the morning from the site, where seven houses were destroyed by the mudslide,” said Koichiro Yonezawa, an official of the city’s anti-disaster office.
“We will switch our operation from rescue to reconstruction tomorrow as damage to the area is really sizable,” he said.
Tokage, which means lizard in Japanese, was the deadliest typhoon to strike Japan since 1991 when the toll was one higher at 62.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi directed the minister in charge of disaster management, Yoshitaka Murata, to visit the worst hit areas.
“There was really terrible damage. I want you to go and inspect the situation,” Koizumi told the minister.
Emperor Akihito said the typhoon “generated the worst damage in the past 10 years”.
“I am feeling very sorry,” the monarch said.
Television footage showed cars crushed by a fallen tree in the western city of Hiroshima, while farther south high waves destroyed a concrete breakwater and ripped through walls of seashore houses in Kochi.
Authorities forced about 15 000 to evacuate their homes and another 5 000 households voluntarily went to temporary shelters, NHK said.
Tokage was early on Thursday downgraded to a temperate depression and was moving east at 45kph.
The typhoon drenched Tokyo late on Wednesday and paralysed traffic across the nation. Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways cancelled a total of 95 domestic flights on Thursday morning, affecting about 24 200 travellers.
On Wednesday, the typhoon halted bullet trains between Tokyo and Osaka and caused the cancellation of nearly 900 domestic flights. Power was temporarily cut off to thousands of homes.
Tokage is the record 10th major storm to hit Japan from the ocean in a year.
With an 800km radius, it was the biggest typhoon to batter Japan since 1991 when the Meteorological Agency began classifying typhoons by the size of their storm zones.
The nine previous typhoons that have hit Japan this year caused a total of 102 deaths and left 13 missing and presumed dead.—AFP
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