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Death Toll Climbs After Typhoon Hits Japan

Typhoon Hagibis left overturned cars and mud-slicked streets in Hoyasu, Japan. Rescue crews are still combing through areas that flooded after extreme rain caused rivers to break through levees.
Jae C. Hong

Typhoon Hagibis slammed into Japan over the weekend, dropping more than 35 inches of rain in some places and causing catastrophic flooding in communities in the region around Tokyo, as well as further inland.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK reports that the death toll from the storm is now at more than 50 people. That number could rise as the water continues to recede from residential areas, some of which flooded up to the roofs of houses after the storm caused rivers to jump their banks, breaking through levees and sending muddy water rushing into neighborhoods.

Nagano city in central Japan flooded after an embankment along the Chikuma river collapsed, NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports, and tens of thousands of military personnel were deployed to help rescue people who have been trapped by mud and water by raft and helicopter.

The typhoon is the most powerful to hit Japan since a record-setting storm that killed hundreds of people there in 1958.

The storm also knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes, according to Reuters, and tens of thousands of households still did not have power on Monday.

Officials are warning that landslide risk is still high days after the storm made landfall. Saturated soil is unstable, and many of the hardest-hit areas are mountainous. At least one deadly landslide was reported by NHKoutside Tokyo.

The mud from river flooding, and the ongoing threat of further mudslides, will make cleaning up from the storm a slog for residents who must hose down homes and businesses in order to assess the damage.

The ultimate cost of the storm won't be clear for weeks or months. But overall global costs from hurricane and typhoon damage have ballooned in recent years, driven by a combination of more frequent and severe storms, rising seas and global development along vulnerable coastlines.

In 2017, Atlantic hurricanes caused $230 billion in damage, mostly in the United States. Last year, typhoons in the Pacific caused record amounts of damage in Asian countries, topping $30 billion, according to the global reinsurance giant Munich Re.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.