Typhoon Talas has left at least 34 dead and dozens missing in Japan on Monday, adding more misery to a nation attempting to recover from an earthquake and catastrophic tsunami six months ago.
Military crews airlifted relief supplies to thousands who were stranded after the typhoon caused landslides and washed away bridges, railways and roads. More than 4,000 people were without telephone and electricity Monday evening. Police, firefighters and soldiers gather together to clear roads so they could distribute food and medicine to victims.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who was sworn in a day before Talas hit landfall, promised that the government would provide assistance as quickly as it could.
“We will do everything we can to rescue people and search for the missing,” Noda said.
The government issued a mandatory evacuation for nearly half a million people and more than 3,000 remain in evacuation centers. The typhoon lashed through Japan, dumping record amounts of rain on central and western Japan before being downgraded to a tropical storm.
The extent of damage from Talas is still being accessed. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, a record 26 inches of rain fell in one day in Nara Prefecture. Officials reported that in Wakayama Prefecture, the worst hit area, 17 people were confirmed dead while two dozen others were missing.
“There are so many roads out that it is hard to count them all,” said local official Seiji Yamamoto. “Hundreds of homes have been flooded,” he said.
Television footage showed entire neighborhoods flooded by swollen rivers, while police used rope to pull survivors out of their washed-away homes.
Rescuers and search teams scoured central Japan to look for survivors. There are roughly 54 people are missing. Among the victims are the wife and daughter of mayor the town of Nachikatsuura, Shinichi Teramoto.
“I have to think about how to help the people of the town deal with this disaster,” said Mayor Teramoto. “Only after that can I think about my family. I hope that I can find my wife soon to send off my family with my daughter.”
The typhoon, which in Japanese means “sharpness,” touched down Saturday night and has been called the worst storm to hit Japan since Typhoon Tokage in 2004, which left 98 people dead or missing. The death toll is expected to increase, as rescue crews continue their search.