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Japan searches for survivors as Typhoon Hagibis death toll hits 56

Hagibis crashed into the country on Saturday night.

Updated Oct 14th 2019, 8:25 PM

typhoon-hagibis-hits-japan Nagano in Japan inundated after the river banks of the Chikumagawa River collapsed. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

TENS OF THOUSANDS of rescue workers are searching for survivors of Typhoon Hagibis, two days after the storm hit Japan, killing at least 56 people.

Hagibis crashed into the country on Saturday night, but brought hours of heavy rains even before it arrived, causing landslides and filling rivers until they burst their banks.

The destruction forced the Rugby World Cup to cancel several games, but the ‘Brave Blossoms’, as the national team is known, lifted spirits with a 28-21 victory over Scotland yesterday that put them into the quarter-finals of the tournament for the first time.

More than 110,000 rescuers, including 31,000 troops, worked through the night and into today, a national holiday, searching for people trapped by the disaster.

At least 56 people have been have been killed and 15 others are missing. 

While Hagibis, one of the most powerful storms to hit the Tokyo area in decades, packed wind gusts of up to 216 kilometres per hours (134 miles per hour), it was the heavy rains that caused most damage, with 21 rivers bursting their banks.

In central Nagano, a levee breach sent water from the Chikuma river gushing into residential neighbourhoods, flooding homes up to the second floor.

Military and fire department helicopters winched survivors from roofs and balconies in several locations, but in Fukushima one operation went tragically awry when a woman died after falling while being rescued.

‘Saving lives top priority’

Elsewhere, rescuers used boats during an hours-long operation to retrieve hundreds of people trapped in a retirement home in Kawagoe, northwest of Tokyo, when floodwaters inundated the building.

One elderly woman wearing an orange life vest was carried from a boat on the back of a rescuer. Others were hoisted into wheelchairs and pushed along a muddy shore after arriving by boat.

Rescue efforts were continuing on this morning, with local television showing soldiers rowing a rubber rescue dingy through floodwaters in Fukushima, while elsewhere workers removed dirt with a digger.

japan-asia-typhoon-wcup-rugby-canada Canadian rugby player Josh Larsen helps a resident to clean a road in Kamaishi. Source: PA Images

The death toll mounted throughout the day yesterday as bodies were recovered from flooded homes and cars, buildings caught in landslides, and swollen rivers.

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 said. 

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.

Rugby win

Some 75,900 households ARE without power, with water cut off to 135,000 homes.

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 storm brought travel chaos over the weekend, grounding flights and halting commuter and bullet train services.

Most subway trains had resumed service today, 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,”  Japan captain Michael Leitch said.

© – AFP 2019

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