A powerful typhoon that ripped through western Japan left at least 37 people dead and more than 50 missing Sunday, after swollen rivers swept away buildings and landslides crumbled houses.
Typhoon Talas, Japan’s 12th tropical cyclone of the season, is being regarded as one of the deadliest in recent years, packing wind gusts of up to 75mph during its peak on Saturday when it cut across the main island of Shikoku and the western part of Honshu island.
“I have been working for the prefectural office over 40 years, but this is the worst in my memory,” said Tsutomu Furukawa of Wakayama prefecture, one of the three prefectures on the Kii Peninsula, where damage from Typhoon Talas was concentrated.
In addition to the numerous deaths left in Talas’ wake, ABC news reported that the storm forced the evacuation of more than 450,000 people over the weekend, left tens of thousands without power, and stranded countless others as it washed out bridges, railways and roads.
The destruction added more misery to a nation still reeling from a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami six months ago.
In one of his first acts in office, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda — sworn in just one day before Talas made landfall — vowed the government would provide as much assistance as quickly as it could.
“We will do everything we can to rescue people and search for the missing,” Noda said.
Although the Typhoon Talas was downgraded to a tropical storm late Sunday as it moved off into the Sea of Japan, forecasters warned that heavy rains and strong winds were likely to continue due to the storm’s slow speed.