LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
A powerful typhoon has killed at least 19 people and left a dozen missing in Japan. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports that it's thought to be the strongest storm to hit the country in six decades.
ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: By the time it made landfall Saturday night, local time, Typhoon Hagibis was packing winds up to 130 miles per hour. Tens of thousands of people took refuge in evacuation centers. Flights and trains were cancelled, and hundreds of thousands of homes were without power or water. Major sporting events were canceled or postponed, including Rugby World Cup games and Formula One Grand Prix qualifiers. About the time the storm hit, a magnitude 5.7 earthquake shook Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo.
At a Sunday press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga summed up the damage.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
YOSHIHIDE SUGA: (Speaking Japanese).
KUHN: "The large typhoon, 19th of the year, caused extensive damage in a wide area centering on eastern Japan," he said. "Severe rain warnings were announced in 13 cities and prefectures, and dams and rivers overflowed."
In central Japan's Nagano prefecture, the Chikuma River burst its banks, leaving houses and cars underwater. Around 27,000 soldiers were mobilized to help rescue citizens. Stranded residents were ferried out in rubber rafts and plucked from rooftops by helicopters. Some of those killed and missing were swept away by churning floodwaters, buried in landslides or drowned when their ship sank.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his sympathy, as did Yoshihide Suga.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
SUGA: (Speaking Japanese).
KUHN: "I would like to pray for the souls of the deceased," he said, "and offer our sincere condolences to all the victims of this disaster."
Hagibis is believed to be the biggest storm to hit Japan since Typhoon Kanogawa, which killed around 1,200 people back in 1958. The difference this time appears to be better infrastructure, including dams, levees and seawalls, some of which were shored up with sandbags before the typhoon hit.
Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Seoul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.