From: Masayuki Kitano, Reuters
Published October 22, 2004 12:00 AM

Typhoon Kills 62 in Japan, Deadliest in 20 Years

TOKYO — Japan's deadliest typhoon in more than two decades killed at least 62 people, media said on Thursday, as rescuers searched frantically for 27 still missing in floods and landslides.


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.


The typhoon, which moved out into the Pacific early on Thursday and was downgraded to a tropical depression soon after, was a record 10th to hit Japan this year.


Kyodo news agency said 62 were killed and 27 missing due to the typhoon, while the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said 54 were killed and 26 missing.


According to the Meteorological Agency, the number of people killed or unaccounted for was the highest for a single typhoon since 95 died or went missing due to one in 1982.


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A total of 167 people, including 102 trainees aged around 20, were rescued from their ship, the 2,556-ton Kaio Maru, which ran aground on a breakwater in the middle of the storm. Sixteen on board the ship, which was waiting out the typhoon at Toyama, 255 km (158 miles) west of Tokyo, suffered injuries such as broken wrists.


Television showed people holding on to power poles to stay on their feet as the storm swept up the coast towards Tokyo.


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.


Telephone poles stuck up out of muddy water that still covered vast areas near the ancient capital city of Kyoto.


Rescuers in the western prefecture of Okayama dug through the rubble of seven homes crushed in a landslide, searching for possible survivors. Most of the areas hit by landslides were rural, and in many cases the houses were clustered just under steep slopes, a typical situation in mountainous Japan.


Rare Typhoon


"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 rain and winds," said a Meteorological Agency official. "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 dinghy early on Thursday. One elderly woman collapsed into her rescuer's arms.


"The wind was very strong, it was raining very hard, it was cold. We all held onto each other's shoulders to stay together," one man on the bus told NHK national television. "We were very scared."


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 a.m. on Thursday.


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 heartfelt condolences.... We will take all possible measures," he told reporters.


The government will set up an emergency disaster relief headquarters led by Yoshitaka Murata, minister in charge of disaster management, Hosoda said, adding that it was considering sending officials to survey affected areas.


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, pummeled Tokyo and killed six people across the country earlier this month.


Additional reporting by Elaine Lies and Teruaki Ueno


Source: Reuters


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