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14 dead after typhoon hits Japan

Thursday, September 30, 2004 Posted: 0400 GMT (1200 HKT)

A landslide hits Miyagawa village.

TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) -- A weakening Typhoon Meari swept through northern Japan after killing at least 14 people and leaving 13 missing in two days of floods and landslides caused by heavy rain.

In Mie prefecture in western Japan, soldiers, up to their ankles in mud, were digging through debris in search of survivors feared trapped under mud and the rubble of their own houses.

Meari, a record eighth typhoon to hit Japan this year, made landfall on the southernmost main island of Kyushu on Wednesday before moving northeast over large parts of the country including Tokyo, with winds up to 108 km (67 miles) per hour.

A government spokesman said that by mid-morning on Thursday 14 were confirmed dead and 13 still missing.

"The prospects are not very good. I've never seen anything like this in my time here," said an official at a village in Mie where some residents were still believed to be buried under mud.

Television showed footage of cars turned upside down and houses knocked over by landslides.

After the rains abated, residents rushed out to help search for survivors, using buckets and shovels to scoop mud from houses. Some houses were nearly totally covered by mud, with only the roof visible.

Bystanders kneeled and offered prayers as bodies were pulled from the rubble.

An aerial shot showed how a landslide had sliced through a forest, cutting a wide brown swath through the trees, with houses buried in mud at the bottom of a slope.

Tokyo was buffeted by strong winds and rain late on Wednesday but no major damage was reported and an official at the capital's Narita international airport said it was operating normally on Thursday.

The storm had weakened by Thursday morning and was moving east at 45 km (28 miles) an hour near the city of Ichinoseki, 450 km (280 miles) north of Tokyo, with maximum winds of 83 km (52 miles) per hour near its center, the Meteorological Agency said.

Meari, which means echo in Korean, had forced thousands to evacuate. On Wednesday, it severely disrupted all traffic in western Japan. Hundreds of flights, as well as train and ferry services, were cancelled.

Nearly 50 people have been killed in a series of storms that have battered Japan and neighboring South Korea this year.

Earlier this month, typhoon Songda, one of the most powerful to hit Japan in recent years, killed at least 30 people and injured hundreds. In August, typhoon Megi killed at least 13 people in Japan and South Korea.


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