Search effort for dozens of missing people after Typhoon Wipha batttered the island of Izu Oshima continued overnight into Thursday as the death toll climbed to 21.
Hundreds of rescuers combed piles of mud, splintered houses and debris for bodies that may have been buried in landslides triggered by the typhoon. Around 39 people were missing in the worst-hit island, which lies 120 kilometers south of Tokyo.
Yoshinori Sano, a spokesman for the rescuers, said that they were “hopeful” of finding survivors.
“We are searching every inch of the area to find survivors, there is still hope,” he said.
In Oshima, which covers the entire island with a population of just over 8,300, about 15 police officers spent the morning using chainsaws and shovels to free the body of an elderly woman buried in mud and the wreckage of a wooden house.
The woman was formally pronounced dead later in the day.
The island’s governor has been criticized for nor ordering an evacuation even after alerts from the Meteorological Agency for the approaching powerful typhoon. Typhoon Wipha dumped the highest levels of rain in decades.
Masafumi Kawashima, the mayor of the island, expressed his regret after failing to issue an evacuation advisory.
“I’d like to offer an apology because some people could have been saved if the town had issued an evacuation advisory or order,” Kawashima said.
He said he feared that doing so “in the middle of heavy rains in the dark could lead to a secondary disaster.”
The storm grazed Tokyo, bringing strong winds and torrential rains that disrupted bullet train services and flights. A woman reportedly drowned after falling into a raging river while two young boys believed to have been swept by waves in Kanagawa prefecture remain missing.
By Maesie Bertumen
Image: Wikimedia Commons