On Wednesday, Typhoon Wipha, considered to be the strongest cyclone to hit Tokyo in a decade, caused landslides that have buried houses, and frustrated passengers trying to board their planes when hundreds of airline flights were canceled, leaving approximately 61,000 people stranded. The powerful typhoon has resulted in the deaths of at least 14 people. The death toll is expected to rise even higher.
Many of the deaths, according to local police reports, occurred on the small island of Oshima, which is south of Tokyo by 120 km. Landslides resulted from the heavy rains that the typhoon brought. Roads have been blocked by the resultant rubble and debris, and several houses have been destroyed.
Of the current known victims of Typhoon Wipha, 13 have been pulled from these splintered houses, which are now reduced to ruins.
There are still at least 50 people who the rescuers have not been able to reach yet, and some of them might number among the overall death toll whenever the area can be reached by the rescuers.
In Machida, which is located in the western part of Tokyo, one additional victim of the typhoon was pulled from a river and pronounced dead.
Besides the cancellation of both domestic and international flights because of the ferocity of Typhoon Wipha, even travel by Japan’s famed bullet trains was suspended temporarily.
The current course and speed of the typhoon indicates that it is likely to arrive later tonight in Hokkaido, where it might possibly claim further victims.
Many of the residents of the small island sought refuge in evacuation centers after torrents of muddy water started flooding into their homes and began to pose a threat to their escape with their lives.
On Wednesday morning, two people who had been trapped inside of their houses were rescued by emergency personnel, but some of the areas that have been the most devastated are still difficult to reach.
The island is inhabited by over 8300 people. Fifty of these are still unaccounted for at this time. Their fates are as yet unknown, though authorities fear the worst, that at least some of them were killed when the typhoon struck.
In the greater Tokyo area, three further people have been reported to be missing, according to police officials.
A search involving helicopters has been launched for two elementary school-age boys who were reported to have been near a beach when the typhoon hit.
Also, it is feared that a man in his 50s who had told the police about a landslide that had happened behind his house might also have perished during the storm or its aftermath.
So far, the thousands of tons of radiation-contaminated water used in the cooling of reactors that are being stored in tanks at the power station have reportedly gone undamaged.
Typhoon Wipha did not make landfall in Tokyo, but the powerful winds and heavy beating rains it brought has caused the disruption of the morning commute of scores of people who are struggling to get to their jobs.
At least, most of the residents of Tokyo did not suffer through the devastation that Typhoon Wipha inflicted upon the island of Oshima. With the destruction of many of hte houses on the island, and the death toll now at 14 and expected to rise, Typhoon Wipha has been the deadliest typhoon in a decade to hit Japan.
Written by: Douglas Cobb