Torrential rain brought by powerful Typhoon Talas, which made landfall Saturday and was one of the deadliest in years, caused rivers to swell and triggered floods and landslides that swept away buildings, homes and roads.
Police and firefighters resumed a search for the missing early today, warning that the number of victims was set to rise as the continued threat of landslides and damaged access routes hampered relief efforts.
In the deadliest typhoon since an October 2004 storm killed nearly 100 people, floods triggered by Typhoon Talas gave rise to scenes eerily reminiscent of the aftermath of the March 11 tsunami that hit northeast Japan.
In Nachikatsuura town, a railway bridge was swept into a river, while TV footage showed splintered trees, crushed houses and cars tossed onto walls and buildings by the raging floodwaters that inundated entire neighbourhoods.
By yesterday, Talas had been downgraded to a tropical storm after it moved over Japan and into the Sea of Japan (East Sea), the Meteorological Agency said, but risks of further landslides posed a threat to rescue and recovery efforts.
The storm came after new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda was sworn in on Friday, replacing Naoto Kan, who was heavily criticised for the government''s response in the aftermath of the March 11 disasters.
"We will do our best in saving lives and finding the missing," Noda told reporters today.