TOKYO » Rescuers in Japan dug through mud-caked debris and searched the banks of swollen rivers Monday for those missing in a powerful typhoon that left at least 25 people dead, the latest disaster for a country still recovering from a calamitous tsunami six months ago.
Typhoon Talas, which was later downgraded to a tropical storm, lashed coastal areas with destructive winds and record-setting rains over the weekend. In addition to the dead and missing, thousands more were stranded as the typhoon washed out bridges, railways and roads.
"We will do everything we can to rescue people and search for the missing," said new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who took office just one day before the typhoon hit and whose government is still struggling to deal with the tsunami recovery and the ensuing nuclear crisis.
The typhoon was believed to be the worst to hit Japan since 2004, when 98 people were killed or reported missing. It caused most of its damage on the Kii Peninsula, in central Japan southwest of Tokyo and hundreds of miles (kilometers) from the country’s tsunami-ravaged northeastern coast.
Public broadcaster NHK said that as of Monday, 25 people had been confirmed dead in the typhoon, while the Kyodo news agency put the toll at 27. Most of the dead were in Wakayama prefecture. Wakayama official Seiji Yamamoto said 17 were killed there and another 28 missing.
"There are so many roads out that it is hard to count them all," he said.
Rains and wind were recorded across wide swaths of Japan’s main island, but no significant damage was reported in the northeast, which is still recovering from the tsunami and earthquake that left nearly 21,000 dead or unaccounted for.
As the typhoon approached, evacuation orders or advisories were issued to 460,000 people. At least 3,600 people were stranded by flooded rivers, landslides and collapsed bridges that were hampering rescue efforts, Kyodo reported.
The center of the season’s 12th typhoon crossed the southern island of Shikoku and the central part of the main island of Honshu overnight Saturday. It then moved slowly north across the Sea of Japan off the country’s west coast, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
It was still offshore in the Sea of Japan on Monday.