A powerful typhoon has killed at least 37 people and left dozens more missing in Japan, bringing further devastation to a country still reeling from a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami six months ago.
Typhoon Talas – the 12th of the season – brought punishing winds and heavy rainfall, triggering landslides and flooding across central Japan, southwest of Tokyo. In Nara Prefecture, a record 26 inches of rain fell in one day, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. More than 450,000 people were evacuated over the weekend, tens of thousands remained without power Monday night. In the worst hit Wakayama Prefecture alone, 22 people were confirmed dead, while two dozen others were missing.
Search and rescue crews combed through muddy debris and swollen rivers looking for survivors, a scene reminiscent of the aftermath of the March 11 disasters. Levees were breached, and bridges washed away, cutting access to small towns, and stranding elderly residents.
New Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda – sworn in just one day before the typhoon hit – vowed to help devastated towns rebuild.
“We will do everything we can to rescue people and search for the missing,” Noda said.
The center of Typhoon Talas touched down on the southern island of Shikoku and the central part of the main island of Honshu Saturday night, before making its way towards the Sea of Japan, off the country’s west coast. The storm was the worst since 2004, when 98 people were killed or reported missing.
The death toll is expected to climb as rescue crews continue their search in the days ahead, further straining relief efforts, in a country that has already experienced its worst natural disaster in history.