Oshima resumes hunt for missing

Lifting of evacuation order allows search to carry on, but new typhoon lurks

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo

As meteorologists warned of another “very strong” storm, the search resumed Monday for 18 people still missing after last week’s typhoon-sparked landslides on Izu-Oshima Island, 120 km south of Tokyo.

Following a weekend halt due to rough weather, emergency crews were back combing through the tons of mud that engulfed houses late Oct. 15 and early Oct. 16 as Typhoon Wipha, the season’s 26th, roared through, leaving people buried alive.

Heavy rain over the weekend piled more misery on the landslides, which killed at least 28 people and triggered advisories to 2,300 residents to evacuate for fear of another calamity.

But the evacuation advisory was lifted Monday morning as weather improved. The Oshima Municipal Government had issued it on Saturday as the prospect of more heavy rain raised fears that the situation might worsen. While the advisory was in effect, the search for the 18 missing was suspended.

As of Sunday night, almost 600 evacuees were in shelters.

With the advisory lifted as of 8 a.m. Monday, some 1,200 police officers, rescue workers and soldiers had returned to their grim task, an official said.

“As the (next) typhoon is coming and rain is expected to start falling again, we would like to do as much searching as possible beforehand, and return the missing to their families,” Oshima Mayor Masafumi Kawashima said.

“The town (has) advised residents to return home for now and calmly prepare for the next evacuation.”

Typhoon Francisco, which forecasters say is “very strong,” is moving north-northwest at 10 kph in the Pacific east of the Philippines, the Meteorological Agency said Monday morning. Francisco is expected to reach the Okinawa area by Thursday morning.