Asia

Japan typhoon: Rescuers search debris for missing

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Media captionAerial footage shows search teams combing Izu Oshima island

Rescuers in Japan worked overnight and into Thursday looking for survivors of Typhoon Wipha, which has killed at least 18 people.

Around 39 people are still missing on Izu Oshima island, south of Tokyo, after the typhoon triggered storms and landslides on Wednesday.

The island governor has been criticised for not ordering an evacuation.

In the Japanese capital, Tokyo, the typhoon led to schools closing and around 400 flights being cancelled.

More than 1,000 rescue workers at Izu Oshima searched through piles of mud, broken houses and debris for bodies.

Yoshinori Sano, a spokesman for the rescuers, said that they were "hopeful" of finding survivors.

Police officers used chainsaws and shovels to free the body of a woman who had been buried in mud and the wreckage of a wooden house, AFP reported.

"I'd like to offer an apology because some people could have been saved if the town had issued an evacuation advisory or order," the mayor of the island, Masafumi Kawashima, said.

He said that he had not issued an evacuation advisory at the time because he feared that doing so "in the middle of heavy rains in the dark could lead to a secondary disaster".

"But in retrospect, I think that was naive," he said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Police, fire fighters and troops worked throughout the night looking for survivors
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Cars and houses were wrecked by the powerful typhoon
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption At least 17 people died on Izu Oshima, while one woman died in Tokyo

Around 280 houses were damaged on the island, officials said.

Local TV footage showed residents struggling to remove mud from their homes.

"We don't have tools, so we can't do much to clear [mud] out of the house," one resident said.

Meanwhile, operators at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant said they detected increased radiation levels after rain from the typhoon made contaminated soil flow into a ditch leading to the sea, broadcaster NHK reported.

They said they would begin a cleanup operation, NHK added.

Radioactive water had also overflowed from one of the tanks storing pumped-up groundwater, NHK reported, although it is not clear if this was related to the typhoon.

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