TOKYO, Sept. 5 (UPI) — Rescuers Monday searched for 54 people missing in the aftermath of Typhoon Talas that left at least 26 dead in Japan’s western region, officials said.
The deadly weekend storm had crossed into the Sea of Japan by late Sunday, but not before lashing six of the prefectures with torrential rains that unleashed floods and landslides affecting thousands of people.
Police and firefighters involved in the search for the missing people were hampered in their effort because of broken roads and flooded rivers, Kyodo News reported.
The death toll from the storm had risen to at least 26 as of Monday and authorities warned the number of those listed missing could rise in some of the worst-hit areas, including the mountainous Kii Peninsula, south of Osaka.
Landslides and collapsed bridges had stranded at least 3,600 people in four municipalities in the Wakayama prefecture in the Kii Peninsula. Rescuers said it would be a while before they could determine the full extent of the damage in other mountainous areas.
Those killed in the storm included at least 12 in Wakayama prefecture, and three more in Nara prefecture, Kyodo said.
Japan’s Meteorological Agency said although Talas has crossed into the Sea of Japan, its remnants could still bring more heavy rains to western Japan, triggering more flooding and mudslides.
“I have been working for the prefectural office over 40 years, but this is the worst in my memory,” Tsutomu Furukawa, a representative of Wakayama prefecture, told CNN.
Nearly half a million people in the region had been issued various advisories including evacuation orders ahead of the storm.
The Talas onslaught comes at a time when Japan is recovering from the devastation of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that struck its northeast region, causing damage in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The nuclear crisis at the quake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi power plant is yet to be fully contained.