Japan rescuers search for missing after Typhoon Hagibis kills dozens

'There was a huge river flowing in front of me,' said a 74-year-old resident of Nagano after the worst of deadly Typhoon Hagibis passed over the town north of Japan's capital. Residents were waking up to devastation as crews worked to dig through mudslides and search riverbanks for people in the wake of the typhoon, which has left thousands of homes on the country's main island flooded, damaged or without power.

Estimates of dead range from 24 to 48, with at least 17 missing

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      After the worst of Typhoon Hagibis passed over Nagano, a town north of Tokyo, Kazuo Saito made sure there was no water outside his house and went to bed.

      Saito woke up a few times throughout the night to check, but by the time he was up for good on Sunday morning, the view outside his window was almost unrecognizable.

      "There was a huge river flowing in front of me," the 74-year-old said.

      The storm, which made landfall in the Tokyo region late Saturday, had dumped record amounts of rain that caused rivers to overflow their banks. It turned many neighbourhoods in Kawagoe into water and mud-covered swamps.

      Crews were working across the region to dig through mudslides and search riverbanks for those missing in the storm, which left up to 48 people dead and thousands of homes on Japan's main island flooded, damaged or without power.

      Residents Kazuo Saito, right, and Sumiko Saito clean up their home Monday in Kawagoe City, Japan. Typhoon Hagibis dropped record amounts of rain for a period in some spots, according to meteorological officials, causing more than 20 rivers to overflow. (Eugene Hoshiko/The Associated Press)

      Japan's Kyodo News agency reported 48 people died, 17 were missing and some 100 were injured. 

      The government's Fire and Disaster Management Agency, which is generally more conservative in assessing its numbers, said 24 people were dead and nine were missing. 

      Experts said it would take time to accurately assess the extent of damage, and the casualty count has been growing daily.

      A rescue worker swims as he checks around a flooded residential area in Kawasaki, Japan. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

      Hagibis dropped record amounts of rain for a period in some spots, according to meteorological officials, causing Japan's many rivers to overflow. In Kanagawa Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, 100 centimetres of rain fell over 48 hours. 

      More than 200 rivers overflowed

      Some of the muddy waters in streets, fields and residential areas have subsided. But many places remained flooded, with homes and surrounding roads covered in mud and littered with broken wooden pieces and debris. Some places normally dry still looked like giant rivers.

      Some who lined up for morning soup at evacuation shelters, which are housing 30,000 people, expressed concern about the homes they had left behind. Survivors and rescuers will also face colder weather with northern Japan turning chilly this week.

      More than 200 rivers overflowed and inundated the typhoon hit areas, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation. Hagibis caused damage to extensive areas, most likely because it hardly lost strength due to warmer-than-usual sea temperatures and became a supersized typhoon, unlike usual autumn typhoons that wane while traveling north, experts said.

      Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government will set up a special disaster team, including officials from various ministries, to deal with the fallout from the typhoon, including helping those in evacuation centres and boosting efforts to restore water and electricity to homes.

      "Our response must be rapid and appropriate," Abe said, stressing that many people remained missing and damage was extensive.

      Helicopters pluck stranded from rooftops

      Damage was serious in Nagano prefecture, where an embankment of the Chikuma River broke. Areas in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures in northern Japan were also badly flooded.

      In such areas, rescue crew paddled in little boats to each half-underwater home, calling out to anyone left stranded.

      A digger lies across an embankment after being blown over by a tornado shortly before the arrival of Typhoon Hagibis, on Sunday, in Chiba, Japan. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

      Tokyo Electric Power Co. said 35,100 homes were still without electricity Monday evening in Tokyo and nearby prefectures that the utility serves. That was down from nearly 57,000 earlier in the day.

      East Japan Railway Co. said Hokuriku bullet trains were running Monday but reduced in frequency and limited to the Nagano city and Tokyo route.

      'My heart aches'

      An image of the aerodynamically curved bullet trains sitting in water was seen by many as a sad but iconic symbol of the typhoon's devastation.

      Mimori Domoto, who works at Nagano craft beer-maker Yoho Brewing Co., said all 40 employees at her company had been confirmed safe. But deliveries had temporarily halted, and an event to promote the beer in Tokyo over the weekend was cancelled for safety concerns.

      "My heart aches when I think of the damage that happened in Nagano. Who would have thought it would get this bad?" she said.

      Tama River in Tokyo also overflowed, but damage was not as great as other areas. Areas surrounding Tokyo, such as Tochigi, also suffered damage.

      Much of life in Tokyo returned to normal. People were out and about in the city, trains were running, and store shelves left bare when people were stockpiling were replenished.


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