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Thousands remain trapped, rescue underway for Japan's worst typhoon disaster in decades

(Xinhua)

09:00, September 07, 2011

SHIRAHAMA, Japan, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of people remain isolated after the powerful typhoon Talas ravaged western Japan's Wakayama and Nara prefectures Tuesday, as cut-off roads and power supplies hampered swift rescue and relief work.

In worst-hit Wakayama, five new bodies were found in Nachikatsuura and Tanabe, bring the death toll to 34 in the prefecture, while 34 remain missing and 2,300 isolated on Tuesday.

"The most urgent task is to rescue people," said Yoshinobu Nisaka, governor of Wakayama. "And then to repair infrastructures to restore the normal life of local residents."

Kaisai Electric Co.'s Wakayama branch said 15,000 households remain in blackout in the prefecture as of 5 p.m. Tuesday. The company has sent 1,000 workers to repair power lines.

"Lack of power makes it difficult to conduct relief work in many places, while the blockage of roads makes power resumption hard," Nisaka said.

Mudslide and inundation kept 60 roads in Wakayama cut-off. Rescuers have to walk through deep valleys or climb steep mountains to reach some of the remote villages isolated by the disaster.

Relief materials including canned food, rice balls, and drinking water arrived in the typhoon-hit areas since Sunday. On Tuesday, police and Self-Defense Forces send 15 helicopters to continue relief and rescue work, supplying necessities to the most hard-to-reach areas.

Disaster management minister Tatsuo Hirano, who visited Wakayama Tuesday, told reporters "we will do our utmost to search for and rescue those who remain missing."

Meanwhile, Takeshi Maeda, minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, visited the city of Gojo in neighboring Nara Prefecture, where 24 were killed or missing, and said "we must find those missing as soon as possible above anything else."

According to a Mainichi Shimbun survey, the powerful typhoon has already left 48 dead and 58 missing, making it the most devastating typhoon in more than two decades.

The most severe typhoon in recent years was Typhoon No. 23, which hit Japan in October 2004, leaving 98 people killed or missing.

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