Typhoon Hagibis kills as many as 36 as Japan continues rescue efforts

Helicopters, boats and thousands of troops were deployed across Japan to rescue people stranded by in flooded homes Sunday.

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By Associated Press

TOKYO — Rescue crew dug through mudslides and searched near flooded rivers for missing people after a typhoon caused serious damage in central and northern Japan, killing as many as 36 people.

Typhoon Hagibis, which hit Japan's main island on Saturday, unleashed torrents of rain and strong winds that left thousands of homes flooded, damaged or without power. Kyodo news service reported Monday that the typhoon killed 36 people and that 16 more were missing; the official count from the Fire and Disaster Management Agency was 19 dead and 13 missing.

Authorities warned of more mudslides with rain forecast for the area. Some muddy waters in streets, fields and residential areas had subsided, but many places remained flooded. Public broadcaster NHK said 14 rivers across the nation had flooded, some spilling out in more than one spot.

The Tokyo Fire Department said a woman in her 70s was accidentally dropped 131 feet to the ground while being transported into a rescue helicopter in Iwaki city in Fukushima prefecture, a northern area devastated by the typhoon.

Officials held a news conference to apologize, bowing deeply and long, according to Japanese custom, and acknowledged that the woman had not been strapped in properly.

"The major typhoon has caused immense damage far and wide in eastern Japan," Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, told reporters.

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Students and other residents scoop dirt in Marumori in Miyagi prefecture on Sunday after the town was flooded by Typhoon Hagibis.AP

News video showed a rescue helicopter hovering in a flooded area in Nagano prefecture where an embankment of the Chikuma River broke, and streams of water were continuing to spread over residential areas. The chopper plucked those who were stranded on the second floor of a home submerged in muddy waters.

Aerial video showed tractors trying to control the flooding and several people on a rooftop, one waving a white cloth to get the attention of a helicopter crew. Nearby was a child's school bag. In another part of Nagano, rows of Japan's prized bullet trains, parked in a facility, were sitting in a pool of water.

Among the reported deaths were those whose homes were buried in landslides. Other deaths included those of people who got swept away by raging rivers.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said late Sunday that more than 66,000 homes were still without power. Tohoku Electric Co. said 5,600 homes still lacked electricity in the northern prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima.

Several train services in the Tokyo area resumed early in the morning, while others restarted later.

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Ruling party politician Fumio Kishida said the government would do its utmost in rescue operations, including making sure that those who moved to shelters were taken care of.

He acknowledged that Japan's power grids need to be strengthened so people in disaster areas could rely on timely information.

"So many risks remain, and it is a reality that we must stay on guard," Kishida said on a news talk show on NHK. "We must do our utmost. In these times, a disaster can hit anytime."

The Rugby World Cup match between Namibia and Canada, scheduled for Sunday in Kamaishi, in northern Japan, was canceled as a precaution, but Japan played Scotland as scheduled Sunday evening. Matches on Saturday had been canceled. Stores and amusement parks had also closed, and some Tokyo stores remained closed Sunday.

Authorities had repeatedly warned that Hagibis was on par with a typhoon that wreaked havoc on the Tokyo region in 1958, but the safety infrastructure that Japan's modernization has brought was apparent. The typhoon six decades ago killed more than 1,200 people.