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Japan Times, 22 October 2004, Page 1: Cruelest typhoon in 25 years kills 62: 27 still missing amid mudslides, floods

Kyodo News: Typhoon Tokage left at least 62 people dead, 27 missing and more than 300 injured as it cleared Japan on Thursday morning, the worst carnage wreaked by a typhoon in 25 years.

The typhoon brought downpours and strong winds that destroyed houses and important cultural properties. It also disrupted transportation services across the country before being downgraded to an extratropical depression around 9 a.m.

The number of casualties caused by Tokage, which means lizard and is the Japanese name for the Lacerta constellation, was the worst since an October 1979 typhoon that left 115 dead or missing, the Cabinet Office said.

In September 1991, three typhoons struck Japan and left 86 people dead or missing, while 93 were dead or unaccounted for due to two typhoons and heavy rains between July and August 1993, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi met with Yoshitaka Murata, state minister in charge of disaster management, in the afternoon and ordered the immediate dispatch of a government fact-finding team.

Emergency disaster headquarters were established the same day, with the first meeting held in the late afternoon.

Many of the casualties were the result of landslides triggered by torrential rain, as well as high ocean waves and swollen rivers that crashed through embankments.

As dawn broke and weather conditions improved early Thursday, local authorities and rescue workers resumed efforts to search for the missing and assist those left stranded.

At the site of a mudslide that swalloed several homes in the city of Miyazu, Kyoto Prefecture, the bodies of two people had been found by Thursday morning.

In the city of Maizuru in the prefecture, rescuers transported a group of 37 people to safety after they were stranded on the roof of a sightseeing bus. The group, mostly elderly people who were returning from a hot spring in Fukui Prefecture to Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture, spent the night on the bus roof after it was almost completely submerged in floodwaters from the nearby Yura River.

Group members said they climbed onto the roof after breaking the windows of the vehicle with coat hangers. At one point during the night, the water had completely covered the bus and had come up to their stomachs.

"At that time, I really thought it was all over," a 65 year-old woman said in recalling her ordeal. "But all of us managed to remain strong."

Another woman said she was able to remain calm while they waited for help for more than nine hours in the cold. "But I could not hold back tears when I was rescued," she said.

In Toyooka and Izushi, Hyogo Prefecture, people were rescued from the rooftops of their flooded homes.

And in waters off Toyama port, the Kaiwo Maru, a training ship operated by the National Institute for Sea Training, crashed into breakwaters late Wednesday after its anchor was washed away by strong winds.