TOKYO: At least 56 people have been killed in Japan by Typhoon Hagibis, national broadcaster NHK said Monday (Oct 14), as rescuers worked into the night searching for survivors.
The broadcaster said 15 people were still missing after the deadly storm, which slammed into Tokyo and surrounding areas Saturday night as one of the most powerful typhoons to hit the area in decades.
Typhoon Hagibis moved away from land on Sunday morning, but while it largely spared the capital Tokyo, it left a trail of destruction in surrounding regions. The typhoon unleashed high winds and torrential rain across 36 of the country's 47 prefectures.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for urgent support to those affected.
"There still are many residents who have yet to be accounted for. Our people in uniform are working day and night in search and rescue operations," Abe told an emergency meeting of ministers.
"Damage has been made in an extremely wide range of areas, and more than 30,000 people are still being forced to remain in the state of evacuation. It is our urgent task to offer meticulous support to those who have been affected."
Groups of rescuers wearing goggles and snorkels searched for survivors while making their way in waist-high water in Nagano, central Japan, where the Chikuma River inundated swaths of land.
More than 110,000 police officers, fighter fighters, soldiers and coastguard personnel, as well as some 100 helicopters were mobilised for Monday's rescue operations, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
Military and fire department helicopters winched survivors from roofs and balconies in several locations, but in Fukushima one rescue went tragically awry when a woman died after falling from a chopper cradle.
Elsewhere, rescue workers carried out an hours-long boat operation to evacuate hundreds of people from a retirement home in Kawagoe, northwest of Tokyo, which was flooded up to its top floor.
One elderly woman wearing an orange life vest was brought out from a boat on the back of a hard-hat wearing rescuer. Others were hoisted onto wheelchairs and pushed along a muddy shore on arrival by boat.
Hagibis smashed into the main Japanese island of Honshu on Saturday night as one of the most violent typhoons in recent years, with wind gusts of up to 216kmh.
The destruction forced the Rugby World Cup being hosted by Japan to cancel several games, but the "Brave Blossoms", as the national team is known, lifted spirits with a stunning 28-21 victory over Scotland on Sunday that puts them into the quarter-finals of the tournament for the first time.
MORE RAIN EXPECTED
Later in the day, strong rain was forecast in some parts of central and eastern Japan, where soil is already loosened by record-breaking rain from the typhoon, prompting Suga to urge residents to keep their guard up.
"Rain is expected in affected areas today. Because of the rain we have seen so far, levels of water are high in some rivers and soil is loose in some areas," Suga said.
"Please remain on your guard for landslides and river overflows."
Typhoon Hagibis claimed its first victim even before making landfall, when high winds flipped a vehicle, killing its driver.
Landslides and flooding took more lives overnight, and the toll climbed higher after sunrise on Sunday, as the scale of the devastation wrought by Hagibis became clear.
Bodies were retrieved from submerged homes and vehicles, from raging overflowing rivers, and from buildings buried in landslides.
The dead included a municipal worker whose car was overcome by floodwaters and at least five Chinese crew members aboard a boat that sank in Tokyo Bay on Saturday night.
"Twelve crew were on board. Five Chinese have been found dead," a coastguard official told AFP.
He said four other crew, from China, Myanmar and Vietnam, had been rescued and search operations resumed at daybreak for the remaining three members.
"We plan to dispatch 11 boats, two helicopters and a dozen divers to the site. We are trying our best," he added.
At the storm's peak, more than seven million people were placed under non-compulsory evacuation orders.
The storm prompted the Japan Meteorological Agency to issue its highest-level rain disaster warning, saying "unprecedented" downpours were expected.
'I DON'T KNOW WHERE TO START'
More than 92,000 households were still without power early on Monday, a national holiday, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.
The disaster left tens of thousands of people in shelters, with many unsure when they would be able to return home.
"Everything from my house was washed away before my eyes, I wasn't sure if it was a dream or real," a woman in Nagoya told national broadcaster NHK.
"I feel lucky I'm still alive."
"The water came up higher than my head in the house," Hajime Tokuda, a finance professional living in Kawasaki near Tokyo told AFP.
He moved to his family's home nearby, but that flooded too and they had to be rescued by boat.
In Saitama's Higashi Matsuyama city, northwest of Tokyo, rice and flower farmers were counting their losses, with water submerging warehouses full of freshly harvested produce.
"We never had a flood like this before in this neighbourhood," said one farmer, who declined to give his name.
"I don't know where to start cleaning this mess."
The storm brought travel chaos during a long holiday weekend in Japan, grounding flights and halting local and bullet train services.
By Monday, most subway trains had resumed service, along with many bullet train lines, and flights had also restarted.
The storm also brought havoc to the sporting world, forcing the delay of Japanese Grand Prix qualifiers and the cancellation of three Rugby World Cup matches.
But a crucial decider pitting Japan against Scotland went ahead, with the hosts dedicating their win to the victims of the disaster.
"To everyone that's suffering from the typhoon, this game was for you guys," said Japan captain Michael Leitch.
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres on Sunday said that he was "saddened by reports of loss of life and extensive destruction" caused by Hagibis, and extended his "deep condolences to the families of the victims".