Search goes on for Japan typhoon survivors

Fresh rain stokes fears of further flooding as death toll rises to 56

NAGANO • Rescue workers waded through muddy, waist-high waters, working into the night to search for survivors of Typhoon Hagibis, even as rain fell again yesterday in some affected areas, stoking fears of further flooding.

At least 56 people were killed in the typhoon, which left vast sections of towns in central and eastern Japan under water, with another 15 missing and 211 injured, public broadcaster NHK said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said vast areas had been struck by the deadly storm, which made landfall on Japan's main island of Honshu last Saturday and headed out to sea early on Sunday. Mr Abe called for urgent support to the affected.

Tens of thousands of rescue workers and a fleet of helicopters have fanned out across the various affected areas.

"There still are many residents who have yet to be accounted for. Our people in uniform are working day and night in search-and-rescue operations," Mr Abe told an emergency meeting of ministers.

"(There has been damage) in an extremely wide range of areas, and more than 30,000 people are still being forced to remain in (a) state of evacuation. It is our urgent task to offer meticulous support to those who have been affected."

Rescuers equipped with goggles and snorkels searched for survivors while wading in waist-high water in Nagano, central Japan, where the Chikuma River had overflowed and inundated swathes of land.

A middle-aged man in Nagano, when asked about the situation at his house, told NHK: "It's just like a lake."

Mr Yoshinobu Tsuchiya, 69, returned to his house in Nagano City yesterday morning to find that his first floor had been flooded and his garden covered in mud.

 
 
 
 

"So this is what it's come to," he told Nikkei newspaper.

"I can't even imagine when we'll finish cleaning up. I'm sick of this flood."

A neighbour in his 60s told the newspaper: "This is just like a tsunami. This is hopeless."

More than 110,000 police officers, fire fighters, soldiers and coastguard personnel, as well as some 100 helicopters, were mobilised for yesterday's rescue operations, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.

Strong rain was forecast later in the day in some parts of central and eastern Japan, where soil has already been loosened by record-breaking rain from the typhoon, prompting Mr Suga to urge residents to keep their guard up.

"Rain is expected in affected areas today. Because of the rain we have seen so far, levels of water are high in some rivers and soil is loose in some areas," Mr Suga said. "Please remain on your guard for landslides and river overflows."

In Fukushima, north of the capital, Tokyo Electric Power Company reported nine cases of irregular readings from sensors monitoring water over the weekend at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was crippled by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

But a Tokyo Electric official said yesterday that eight of the cases were triggered by rainwater and the other one was caused by a monitor malfunction, and that there was no leakage of contaminated water.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2019, with the headline 'Search goes on for Japan typhoon survivors'. Print Edition | Subscribe