Sun, Oct 20, 2013 - Page 4 News List

Rescue workers scour land and sea for 26 missing in landslide

AFP, OSHIMA, Japan

Yu Kosaka, left, searches for friends of her parents on Oshima Island, Japan, on Friday. Typhoon Wipha brought heavy rain and strong winds to the remote island causing a mudslide that killed 22 people and left 26 missing.

Photo: EPA

Frogmen on Friday were scouring waters off the coast of a Japanese island where landslides buried houses when a huge typhoon struck, as the death toll reached 24.

Coastguards joined the grim search for the 26 people still unaccounted for after a mountainside collapsed on the island of Oshima, 120km south of Tokyo.

About 1,000 troops, firefighters and police were continuing their search on land, using shovels to move the huge volumes of earth that had buried homes, as those affected by the disaster looked on.

“Even if I wanted to rebuild my home now, is it worth it at my age?” said Masako Yanasu, 67, whose guesthouse was badly damaged by the landslide.

“I would be dead before it was done,” she said. “I don’t know what to do. Everyone is dead in the neighborhood, everyone I used to know.”

A total of 22 people are now known to have died on the island. A woman was also killed in Tokyo and the body of one of two elementary schoolchildren believed to have been near a beach in Kanagawa when the storm hit has been found, a local official said.

The other child and a man in Chiba were still listed as missing.

Typhoon Wipha, the most powerful in 10 years, veered up the coast of the Japanese archipelago on Tuesday and Wednesday. The eye of the storm stayed offshore, but strong winds and heavy rain wreaked devastation on Oshima, one of a number of far-flung islands that are administratively part of metropolitan Tokyo.

The island was bracing for more bad weather with another typhoon developing to the south of Japan, threatening weekend rain in the region that could hamper rescue operations.

“We are concerned about a secondary disaster because of the possibility of rain over the weekend,” Japanese Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Akihiro Ota told reporters in Tokyo.

The ministry plans to set up surveillance cameras to monitor signs of further landslides near the stricken zone, government officials said.

Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose, who visited rescue workers on Thursday, urged them to do their utmost to find anyone who was still alive, Jiji Press reported.

“The 72-hour ‘golden rescue period’ is going to be over soon,” he said, referring to the time after which it is thought survival in a disaster is unlikely. “I expect you to do everything you can.”

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