Typhoon Talas devastates western Japan

Wednesday 07th Sep 2011 by theWeather Club

Japanese rescue teams are continuing the search for dozens of people missing after Typhoon Talas - the most destructive to hit the country since 2004 - ripped through the west of the country on Sunday 4th September. The typhoon brought torrential rain and strong winds, swelling rivers and triggering landslides that swept away buildings in the south-western island of Shikoku, the Kii peninsula and the Chugoku region.

Entire villages have been flooded, with bridges and houses destroyed. An added complication has been that a high percentage of the population in the areas hit are elderly, making the task of bringing relief supplies much more urgent. Local officials have collected a ton of water and prepared more than 3,000 rice meals to be airlifted by helicopter to the village of Totsukawa in the Nara prefecture, where 12 people are reported dead or missing. In Nara, local police and rescuers found one body buried in mud on Wednesday morning, which raised the death toll to five in a prefecture where a local police officer has confirmed that many more are still missing. In the nearby Wakayama prefecture - the worst-hit area - 26 remote communities have been left completely isolated by a series of landslides. Electricity and mains water have been cut off in many places, and deliverymen who usually supply food cannot get through.

So far at least 50 people have been confirmed dead in nine prefectures. Talas has now moved away from Japan and been downgraded to a tropical storm but the remnants of its weather system, combined with effects the offshore Typhoon Noru, continue to inflict heavy rains on the area and hamper relief efforts.

According to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency 54 people remain missing, while some 3,000 are still sheltering in evacuation centres in the wake of the storm. Japanese news reports have claimed that in towns that were hardest hit, evacuation orders never went out to residents, which explains why a majority of those who were killed died in homes destroyed by landslides. The government has set up an emergency task force to co-ordinate the rescue effort. New Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who was only sworn in on Friday, has promised rescue efforts will continue.