Supplies to be sent to cut-off areas

Thousands in Wakayama, Nara prefectures still without gas, electricity


Efforts to search for missing people and deliver relief supplies to isolated communities faced difficulties Tuesday as roads and other lifelines remained severed in Nara and Wakayama prefectures after powerful Typhoon Talas wreaked havoc across the region over the weekend.

According to a tally as of early Tuesday afternoon based on reports by police and fire departments, 48 people were killed and 56 remained missing in floods and mudslides caused by the typhoon.

Searches for missing people were hampered by mud while roads and other lifelines including telephones, electricity, gas and water remained cut off in many areas.

In the hardest-hit areas in Nara and Wakayama prefectures, 2,480 people in 1,340 households were cut off as of Tuesday night.

In the city of Shingu and the town of Nachikatsuura, both in Wakayama Prefecture, 20,000 telephone lines remained severed with no prospect that they will be repaired anytime soon, officials said.

“We will do everything we can to search for and rescue missing people,” Disaster Management Minister Tatsuo Hirano told reporters in the city of Wakayama, where he held talks with Gov. Yoshinobu Nisaka in the morning over how the central and prefectural governments will jointly tackle the aftermath of the typhoon.

The Nara Prefectural Government prepared 1 ton of water and survival food items including 3,100 rice meals.

The supplies were expected to be airlifted by helicopter to the village of Totsukawa, where 12 people are dead or missing, later in the day, officials said.

The city office in Shingu, meanwhile, tried to secure routes to deliver water, dry-cell batteries and other supplies to 26 communities that remained isolated and are comprised largely of elderly residents.

Wakayama police planned to start an intensive search in Shingu and the neighboring town of Nachikatsuura, with backup from Osaka police, but an enormous amount of mud hampered their efforts, according to officials.

Nara police considered mobilizing heavy machinery to remove mud in a district in Gojo where 10 people were still missing, they said.

In one of the communities in Shingu, whose 40 residents are mostly elderly living alone, Ayako Sakamoto, 78, has been living on the second floor of her two-story house after the ground floor was flooded, along with her neighbor, Miho Ishigaki, 76.

“We want to evacuate if there is a place that will accept us,” said Sakamoto, whose neighborhood of about a dozen houses along a national highway was swamped by a nearby swollen river.