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Typhoon, mudslides kill 17 in Japan; 50 missing

  • Firefighters stand on rocks fallen from a cliff over a garage and a road in a residential area in Kamakura, southwest of Tokyo, after a powerful typhoon hit Japan's metropolitan area Wednesday morning, Oct. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

TOKYO — A typhoon caused deadly mudslides that buried people and destroyed homes on a Japanese island Wednesday before sweeping up the Pacific coast, grounding hundreds of flights and disrupting Tokyo's transportation during the morning rush. At least 17 deaths were reported and nearly 50 people were missing.

Hardest hit from Typhoon Wipha was Izu Oshima island, which is about 120 kilometers (75 miles) south of Tokyo. Rescuers found 16 bodies, most of them buried by mudslides, police and town officials said. Dozens of homes were destroyed, and about 45 people were missing.

A woman from Tokyo died after falling into a river and being washed 10 kilometers (6 miles) downriver to Yokohama, police said. Two sixth-grade boys and another person were missing on Japan's main island, Honshu, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said.

More than 350 homes were damaged or destroyed, including 283 on Izu Oshima, it said.

The typhoon, which stayed offshore in the Pacific, had sustained winds of 126 kilometers per hour (78 miles per hour), with gusts up to 180 kph (110 mph), before it was downgraded to a tropical storm Wednesday evening. The storm was moving northeast, off the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

More than 80 centimeters (30 inches) of rain fell on Izu Oshima during a 24-hour period ending Wednesday morning, the most since record-keeping began in 1991.

The rainfall was particularly heavy before dawn, the kind in which "you can't see anything or hear anything," Japan Meteorological Agency official Yoshiaki Yano said.

Izu Oshima is the largest island in the Izu chain southwest of Tokyo. It has one of Japan's most active volcanoes, Mount Mihara, and is a major base for growing camellias. About 8,200 people live on the island, which is accessible by ferry from Tokyo.

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