At least 17 killed in Japan by Typhoon Wipha
At least 17 people have died in Japan after Typhoon Wipha roared up the country’s east coast on Wednesday. According to the authorities, most of the victims lived on the island of Izu Oshima, about 120km south of Tokyo. The island was hit by heavy rains which caused flooding and landslides.
Typhoon Wipha had winds of 126kph before it was downgraded to a tropical storm this afternoon. More than 80 centimetres of rain fell on Izu Oshima, a record amount since 1991.
Almost 20 people were hurt by falling debris or struck by mudslides, and 20,000 more were told to leave their homes, although about 50 people are still missing. Town official Hinani Uematsu told the press that officials “have no idea how bad the extent of damage could be”.
More than 500 domestic and international flights were cancelled at Tokyo’s airports while the national rail operator halted train services in central and northern Japan and thousands of schools closed.
Concerns have also been raised over the stability of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which suffered major damage from the earthquake that hit Japan in 2011.
In the last few months, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has been struggling to deal with a series of leaks at the nuclear plant. Because of the typhoon, rainwater had to be pumped out of radioactive containers at the base of 1,000 tanks storing radioactive water.
The company told the workers at the plant to be extremely careful and to check the rainwater for radioactivity.
As the storm approached, TEPCO cancelled all offshore work and secured machinery in the nuclear plant.
Japan’s prime minister, Shinzō Abe has shown his support to the victims’ families and gave his word that everything will be done to rescue those who are still missing. In the meantime the authorities will try to restore infrastructure and public services as quickly as possible.