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Air drops bring aid to typhoon-isolated Japanese

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    Japanese soldiers and police officers search destroyed houses for missing people after a landslide triggered by Typhoon Talas.

TOKYO » Helicopters ferried supplies Tuesday to thousands of people still cut off by Japan’s worst storm in 28 years. Typhoon Talas left at least 46 dead and 54 missing in a nation still struggling to recover from its devastating tsunami just six months ago.

Aid-laden helicopters descended on towns in the hardest-hit areas as police, firefighters and soldiers mobilized to clear roads so they could distribute food, medicine and other assistance to communities fending for themselves since the typhoon made landfall on Saturday.

Dozens of hamlets with thousands of people in central Japan were still cut off, primarily because of flooding, landslides or other damage to access roads, Kyodo News service reported.

Nearly 3,000 people remained in evacuation centers.

As Talas approached Japan, nearly a half million people were advised to evacuate. It then dumped record amounts of rain on central and western Japan and lashed wide swaths of the country with destructive winds before being downgraded to a tropical storm.

In worst-hit Wakayama, rescuers recovered nine more bodies Tuesday afternoon, with 34 others still missing, according to prefectural police. That brought the nationwide death toll to 46. Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency said 54 people were missing Tuesday, including those in Wakayama.

The 100 dead or missing is the highest toll since heavy rains in 1983 left 117 people dead or unaccounted for, according to government records.

The path of the typhoon did not take it over the tsunami-devastated northeast coast, where nearly 21,000 people were killed or are missing after the March 11 disaster.

But as the eye of the slow-moving storm hovered offshore in the Sea of Japan on Tuesday, heavy rains began to fall anew on the northern island of Hokkaido, prompting evacuation advisories for hundreds of households as rivers began to swell.

Talas is a word from the Philippines that means "sharpness."

Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi contributed to this report.

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