Typhoon Wipha, described by the Japan Meteorological Agency as the strongest Pacific storm the country has seen in 10 years, did not directly hit Japan but was still strong enough to do real damage – leaving at least 17 dead and around 50 still missing. Wipha travelled along the country’s east coast, causing deadly mudslides that buried people and destroyed homes on a Japanese island Wednesday before finally sweeping out into the Pacific, grounding hundreds of flights and hitting Tokyo during the morning rush hour.
Hardest hit was Izu Oshima Island, around 75 miles south of Tokyo. Rescuers found 16 bodies, most of them buried in mudslides. Numerous homes were destroyed, and around 45 of the island’s over 8,000 residents were still missing. At the request of Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose, the Defense Ministry has sent over Ground Self-Defense Force troops to the island to help with the rescue efforts. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) is also sending around 60 personnel, including members of a special disaster rescue team, to Izu Oshima. The Tokyo Fire Department also mobilized a rescue team to the island.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking to Parliament on Wednesday, vowed that the government will be doing its utmost to rescue the missing and support the survivors. Abe also said that he is pushing to restore infrastructure and public services as quickly as possible. Several bullet train routes on the Tohoku, Yamagata, Joetsu, Nagano and Tokaido shinkansen lines were canceled or temporarily suspended due to the typhoon. Air travel was also heavily disrupted, with Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways grounding over 400 domestic and international flights.