Japan swamped in billion dollar disaster

 

Thousands of troops carried out a massive rescue operation across Japan as the death toll from Typhoon Hagibis rose to at least 35 - including an elderly woman dropped from a rescue chopper.

The woman, in her 70s, was being transported into a helicopter in Iwaki city when she was accidentally dropped about 40 metres to the ground, the Tokyo Fire Department said.

She was rushed to a hospital but couldn't be saved, a department official said.

Japan has sent tens of thousands of rescue workers to save stranded residents and fight floods caused by one of the worst typhoons to hit the country in recent history, which briefly paralysed Tokyo.

 

A NASA satellite image showing the typhoon above Japan. Picture: NASA
A NASA satellite image showing the typhoon above Japan. Picture: NASA

 

 

A vehicle falls off collapsed road in the typhoon-hit Kakuda city, Miyagi prefecture, northern Japan. Picture: Kyodo News via AP
A vehicle falls off collapsed road in the typhoon-hit Kakuda city, Miyagi prefecture, northern Japan. Picture: Kyodo News via AP

 

Typhoon Hagibis, one of the most powerful storms in decades, swept across the country. Picture: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images
Typhoon Hagibis, one of the most powerful storms in decades, swept across the country. Picture: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

The government put the death toll at 14, with 11 people missing, but local media said at least 35 people had been killed, and at least 11 were still unaccounted for, as Typhoon Hagibis left vast swathes of low-lying land in central and eastern Japan inundated and cut power to almost half a million homes.

Experts say the clean-up could cost billions of dollars.

Landing restrictions at Tokyo's Narita and Haneda airports were lifted but more than 800 flights were cancelled for the day, NHK said, as were some Shinkansen bullet train services to the worst-hit areas.

The Rugby World Cup match between Namibia and Canada in Kamaishi on Sunday was cancelled, although the crucial Japan-Scotland match was set to go ahead. Two matches were cancelled on Saturday.

Formula One Grand Prix organisers had also cancelled all practice and qualifying sessions scheduled for Saturday but the race went ahead on Sunday.

Buildings lie in ruins after they were hit by a tornado shortly before the arrival of Typhoon Hagibis. Picture: Court/Getty Images
Buildings lie in ruins after they were hit by a tornado shortly before the arrival of Typhoon Hagibis. Picture: Court/Getty Images

 

Authorities lifted rain warnings for the Kanto region around Tokyo, where stores reopened and many train lines resumed operations, but they warned there was still the risk of rivers in eastern Japan overflowing and inflicting fresh damage.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe convened an emergency meeting and sent the minister in charge of disaster management to the affected areas.

Some 27,000 members of Japan's self-defence forces as well as firefighters, police and coast guard members were sent to rescue stranded people in central Japan's Nagano prefecture and elsewhere, the government said. NHK said the full extent of the widespread damage was only beginning to emerge because many areas remained under water.

Some 425,000 homes were without power, the government said, reviving fears of a repeat of the weeks-long power outages suffered after another typhoon hit east of Tokyo last month.

In Fukushima, north of the capital, Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) reported irregular readings from sensors monitoring water in its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The plant was crippled by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Tepco spokeswoman Emi Iwasa said the typhoon triggered 11 leak alerts at the plant.

Of those, eight were confirmed as being triggered by rainwater and the rest were still being investigated. Ms Iwasa said the operator had so far not confirmed if any radioactive water leaked into sea.

Hagibis, which means "speed" in the Philippine language Tagalog, made landfall on Japan's main island of Honshu on Saturday evening and headed out to sea early on Sunday, leaving behind cloudless skies and high temperatures across the country. Prior to the ferocious storm the skies turned a supernatural purple.

Military helicopters flown stranded people from homes near the river, some cradling their children, after they were trapped by water reaching the roofs of their houses.

Authorities at one point issued evacuation advisories and orders for more than six million people across Japan as the storm unleashed the heaviest rain and winds in years.

Some 166 people were injured in the aftermath, NHK said.

The storm, which the government said could be the strongest to hit Tokyo since 1958, brought record-breaking rainfall in many areas, including the popular resort town of Hakone, which was hit with almost 94cm of rain over 24 hours.

In Kawagoe, north of Tokyo, rescuers took residents from a flooded aged care facility by inflatable boats and carried them on their backs to safety. They also searched for survivors in homes destroyed in landslides near Tokyo's suburbs and in Fukushima prefecture.

Government rescue teams have dispatched helicopters and boats to reach people stranded in flooded homes on Sunday, part of a major rescue effort in wide areas of the country, including Tokyo and surrounding areas.

Buildings lie in ruins after they were hit by a tornado shortly before the arrival of Typhoon Hagibis in Chiba, Japan. Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images
Buildings lie in ruins after they were hit by a tornado shortly before the arrival of Typhoon Hagibis in Chiba, Japan. Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images

The casualty numbers continue to grow, and the Kyodo report is considerably higher than what the government spokesman gave earlier in the day.

Experts have warned from the start that assessing the damage is difficult because the flooding has struck about a dozen rivers, causing some of them to spill out in more than one spot.

Japan's chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga says damage to housing from the flooding is extensive but promised that recovery is on its way.

Some 376,000 homes are without electricity, and 14,000 homes lack running water.

Boats as well as helicopters are being deployed to the flooded areas, while rescue crew are digging through dirt in other areas to try to get people out from homes buried by landslides.

Rescue efforts for people stranded in flooded areas are in full force.

Typhoon Hagibis made landfall south of Tokyo on Saturday and moved northward.

Public broadcaster NHK TV reported on Sunday that the typhoon, along with its casualties, had also put one person into cardiac arrest, and injured 80 people.

News footage showed a rescue helicopter hovering in a flooded area in Nagano Prefecture, after an embankment of the Chikuma River broke, plucking people from the second floor of a home submerged in muddy waters.

Several other rivers had also overflowed, including Tama River near Tokyo, according to NHK.

Authorities warned that the risk of mudslides remained.


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