Registered: Apr 2003
Local time: 07:39 PM
Location: In The Zone
Deadly typhoon hits Japan
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's deadliest typhoon in more than a decade has set off floods and landslides that killed at least 48 people and left 33 missing and rescuers are racing against time to search for survivors.
Many people died in landslides set off by the heavy rains from Typhoon Tokage that pounded much of Japan on Wednesday. Others died in flooding or were swept away by massive waves as Tokage, which means lizard in Japanese, roared northeast.
It was a record 10th typhoon to hit Japan this year and the death toll was the highest since the 62 people killed or still unaccounted for after a typhoon in 1991.
Among the dead were three people killed when high waves battered through a concrete breakwater and smashed into their home in Kochi, on Shikoku island in western Japan.
"The waves just came up and crashed down on us," one woman said.
Television showed people holding on to power poles to stay on their feet as the storm swept up the coast towards Tokyo.
Telephone poles stuck up out of muddy water that still covered vast areas near the ancient capital city of Kyoto.
Rescuers in the western Japanese prefecture of Okayama dug through the rubble of seven homes crushed in a landslide, searching for possible survivors.
"The main reason why the typhoon caused such huge damage is that its size is big with a radius of over 500 km (300 miles). That means the typhoon affected almost all of Japan for a long time with rains and winds," a Meteorological Agency official said.
"Such a huge typhoon is very rare," he said.
Thirty-seven people, most of them elderly tourists, were forced to spend the night huddled together on top of a bus after being stranded by floodwater.
They were rescued by helicopter and rubber boat early on Thursday. One elderly woman collapsed into her rescuer's arms.
"As the water rose, we all held on to each other's shoulders to stay together," one man on the bus told NHK national television. "My back is still hurting."
The storm sideswiped Tokyo, buffeting the city with strong winds and rain, before heading out to sea. It was downgraded to a tropical depression at around 9.00 a.m. on Thursday (1:00 a.m. British time on Wednesday).
During the worst of the storm, thousands of people were urged to evacuate to schools and public halls out of fear of flooding and landslides. At least 40,000 homes lost power.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda promised government help for affected areas.
"I would like to express my heart-felt condolences ... We will take all possible measures," he told reporters.
Storms and floods have killed more than 100 people in Japan this year and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. The previous typhoon, Ma-on, pummelled Tokyo and killed six people across the country earlier this month.