More victims, more damage found in Japan typhoon aftermath

NAGANO, Japan (AP) — The toll of death and destruction from a typhoon that tore through central and northern Japan climbed yesterday, as the government said it was considering approving a special budget for the disaster response and eventual reconstruction.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a Parliamentary session that the number of deaths tied to Typhoon Hagibis had climbed to 53 and was expected to rise, as at least another nine people are presumed dead. Kyodo News agency, citing its own tally, put the death toll at 69.

Abe pledged to do the utmost for the safety and rescue of those missing or those who had to evacuate.

“We put the people’s lives first,” he said.

Hagibis hit Japan’s main island last Saturday with strong winds and historic rainfall that caused over 200 rivers to overflow, leaving thousands of homes flooded, damaged or without power.

Rescue crews yesterday were still searching for those missing, thought to number about 20.

A vehicle sits in front of a home destroyed by Typhoon Hagibis in Nagano, Japan. PHOTO: AP

Some 34,000 homes were without power and 110,000 lacked running water. Over 30,000 people were still at shelters as of late Monday, according to the Cabinet Office’s latest tally.

Business appeared nearly back to normal in central Tokyo, and residents in areas where floodwater subsided started cleaning up. Lives, however, remained paralysed in Nagano, Fukishima and other hard-hit areas that were still inundated. Some residents in Nagano returned to their homes, only to find it not habitable.

In Fukushima, 11 bags containing possibly radioactive soil and debris removed as part of decontamination efforts from the 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, were washed from two outdoor temporary storage sites and found downstream, the Environment Ministry said. Most of the remaining 5,000 bags stacked up at the two sites — one in Tamura City and another Iitate — remained in place.

There was no risk to the environment because the waterproof bags were intact and hadn’t leaked, the ministry said.

It said, however, officials will take preventive measures ahead of future rainstorms. A massive number of such bags are still being kept at 760 similar sites across Fukushima.

Their transfer to a longer-term storage facility near the plant is expected to be completed by March 2022.

Speaking in Parliament, Abe said there are concerns of lasting effects of the storm in hard-hit areas. He pledged speedy support for residents.

Abe said the government is funding the disaster response from the JPY500-billion yen (USD4.6 billion) special reserve from the fiscal 2019 budget and may compile a supplementary budget if needed.