TOKYO: Fresh rain threatened to hamper efforts by tens of thousands of Japanese rescuers searching for survivors after a powerful typhoon that by early Tuesday had killed 58 people.
Typhoon Hagibis crashed into the country on Saturday night, unleashing high winds and torrential rain across 36 of the country’s 47 prefectures, triggering landslides and catastrophic flooding.
The death toll from the disaster has risen steadily, and national broadcaster NHK early Tuesday said 58 people had been killed, according to authorities, while more than a dozen were still missing. The government has given lower numbers but was still updating its information.
“Even now, many people are still unaccounted for in the disaster-hit area,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told an emergency disaster meeting on Monday. “Units are trying their best to search for and rescue them, working day and night,” Abe said.
Later in the day, he pledged to “do whatever the country can” for victims and survivors, ordering the defence ministry to call up to 1,000 reserve troops to join 31,000 active forces in search operations.
But rescue work that continued into the night Monday risked being thwarted by additional rain falling in central and eastern Japan. “I would like to ask people to stay fully vigilant and continue watching for landslides and river flooding,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference. In Nagano, one of the worst-hit regions, officials said they were working cautiously. “We are concerned about the impact of the latest rain on rescue and recovery efforts,” local official Hiroki Yamaguchi said. “We will continue operations while watching out for secondary disasters due to the current rain.”
Bodies pulled from flooded cars and homes, swollen rivers and landslides all added to the death toll. The casualties included a municipal worker whose car was engulfed by floodwaters and at least seven crew from a cargo ship that sank in Tokyo Bay on Saturday night, a coast guard spokesman said. Four other crew, from China, Myanmar and Vietnam, were rescued when the vessel sank and the coast guard was still searching for a last crew member. Wind gusts from Hagibis reached up to 216 kilometres (134 miles) per hour, but it was the heavy rains that caused the most damage.