Hunt for missing continues in flooded and battered Japan as Typhoon Hagibis death toll rises

Cars stranded on a road as the city is submerged in muddy waters after an embankment of the Chikuma River broke, in Nagano, Japan Credit: Yohei Kanasashi/AP

The death toll has risen to 36 in Japan after a powerful typhoon unleashed heavy rainfall on Tokyo and surrounding areas.

Rescue crew dug through mudslides and searched near swollen rivers on Monday in central and northern Japan.

Kyodo News service, assembling information from a wide network, counted 36 deaths caused by the typhoon with 16 people missing.

The official count from the Fire and Disaster Management Agency was 19 dead and 13 missing.

One woman fell to her death as she was being placed inside a rescue helicopter.

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

Flood water recedes in Kawasaki, near Tokyo, Japan. Credit: AP

Helicopters plucked people from their flooded homes on Sunday as rescue efforts went into full force in wide areas of Japan.

The government's Fire and Disaster Management Agency said 187 people have been injured, as more details were coming in a day after Typhoon Hagibis made landfall south of Tokyo and moved northward.

The agency said 1,283 homes were flooded and 517 were damaged, partially or totally.

“The major typhoon has caused immense damage far and wide in eastern Japan,” government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters, adding that 27,000 military troops and other rescue crews were deployed for the operation.

  • A house collapses and is swept away by floodwater

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 14 rivers, causing some of them to spill out in more than one spot.

News footage 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 helicopter rescued those stranded on the second floor of a home submerged in muddy waters.

Aerial footage showed tractors trying to control the flooding.

Meanwhile, rows of Japan’s bullet trains, parked in a facility, were sitting in a pool of water.

A stretch of Fukushima, in the city of Date, was also flooded with only rooftops of residential homes visible in some areas.

The flooded streets in Kawasaki, near Tokyo. Credit: @ar_kaz/AP

Parts of nearby Miyagi prefecture were also under water.

The Tama River, which runs by Tokyo, overflowed its banks.

Authorities warned of a risk of mudslides. Among the reported deaths were those whose homes were buried in landslides. Other fatalities included people who got swept away by raging rivers.

Suga said that damage to housing from the flooding was extensive but promised recovery was on its way.

Around 376,000 homes were without electricity, and 14,000 homes lacked running water, he said.

Boats as well as helicopters were sent to the flooded areas, while rescue crew dug through dirt in other areas to try to get people out from homes buried by landslides.

Several train service in the Tokyo area resumed early on Sunday morning, although others were undergoing safety checks and were expected to restart later on.

Students and residents scoop dirt as the town is flooded due to Typhoon Hagibis, in Marumori, Miyagi prefecture, Japan Credit: Kyodo News/AP

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

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

“So many risks remain, and it is a reality we must stay on guard,” Kishida said on an NHK TV news talk show. “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, northern Japan, was cancelled as a precautionary measure, but organisers announced Japan will play Scotland as scheduled on Sunday evening.

A man battles with his umbrella as he crosses the road in Otemachi district of Tokyo. Credit: AP

All matches on Saturday had been cancelled, and shops and amusement parks closed.

As the typhoon bore down on Saturday with heavy rains and strong winds, the usually crowded train stations and streets of Tokyo were deserted, with people advised to stay indoors.

Evacuation centres had been set up in coastal towns with tens of thousands seeking shelter. Kyodo News service said evacuation warnings had been issued to more than six million people.

The typhoon disrupted a three-day weekend in Japan that includes Sports Day on Monday.

Qualifying for a Formula One race in Suzuka was pushed back from Saturday to Sunday.

The authorities had repeatedly warned Hagibis was on par with a typhoon that hit the Tokyo region in 1958.

The typhoon six decades ago had left more than 1,200 people dead and half a million houses flooded.