POSTED: 10:05 a.m. HST, Sep 4, 2011
TOKYO >> Typhoon Talas dumped record amounts of rain Sunday in western and central Japan, killing at least 20 people and stranding thousands more as it turned towns into lakes, washed away cars and triggered mudslides that obliterated houses. At least 50 people were missing, local media reported.
Evacuation orders and advisories were issued to 460,000 people in the region, which is hundreds of miles (kilometers) from the country’s tsunami-ravaged northeastern coast.
At least 3,600 people were stranded by flooded rivers, landslides and collapsed bridges that were hampering rescue efforts, Kyodo News agency reported.
Public broadcaster NHK showed a bridge swept away after intense rain caused a river to swell with brown torrents. People holding umbrellas waded through knee-deep water in city streets and residential areas.
The typhoon dumped record amounts of rain in some areas, and more was expected. It was the country’s worst storm since one in 2004 that left 98 people either dead or missing, the Yomiuri newspaper said. By Sunday, Talas had been downgraded to a tropical storm.
Ten people were killed and 32 were missing in Wakayama prefecture alone, police said. One landslide there buried three homes; a woman was killed and four people were missing, but a 14-year-old girl was rescued from the debris.
In nearby Nara prefecture, seven people were reported missing after their homes were swept down a river, NHK said. A 73-year-old man died in Nara when his house collapsed in a landslide, police said.
The storm damaged Nijojo castle in the ancient city of Kyoto, tearing a large piece of plaster from the gate wall. The castle, a popular tourist destination, is designated an important cultural treasure.
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 was moving slowly north across the Sea of Japan off the country’s west coast, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
Because of the storm’s slow speed, the agency warned that heavy rains and strong winds were likely to continue. With the ground already soaked, fears of additional mudslides were growing, and the agency issued landslide warnings in nearly all of the country’s prefectures.