Typhoon Tokage roared through Southwestern Japan on Wednesday, killing at least 48 persons, injuring more than 200, and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. The NHK, Japan’s public broadcasting service, reported that the toll was the highest in 16 years.
Packing winds over 140 mph (225 km/hr), Tokage was the strongest storm to hit Japan in 10 years. It’s the 10th typhoon to strike the islands this year. News agencies – Reuters, the BBC and the AP – all reported severe flooding, heavy wind damage, downed trees and power lines. More than 50,000 homes were without electricity, while another 110,000 people were forced to evacuate before the typhoon hit.
Transport services were severely disrupted, with virtually nothing able to move on the roads, train services suspended and more than 1000 domestic flights cancelled. Bullet train services between Tokyo and Osaka were suspended due to the heavy rains, but have reportedly now resumed.
Local rescue workers, assisted by the national police and army units, are sifting through the debris in the hopes of finding additional survivors, but the death toll is expected to rise. Damage and flooding were particularly heavy along the coast where tidal waves smashed concrete defenses, flooding many low-lying areas.
2004 has been a record year for tropical storms in both the Caribbean and the Western Pacific. While U.S. attention has focused mainly on the 4 hurricanes that struck Florida in August and September, Japan has been hit by a record number of typhoons. 10 have hit at least part of the country so far this year, 4 more than the previous post World War II record. 8 of them have caused some damage, which government estimates put at around $6.72 billion.
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