Japan Begins Recovery Process After Deadly Typhoon Hits

Oct 14, 2019
Originally published on October 14, 2019 11:36 pm
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NOEL KING, HOST:

Japan is recovering from a powerful typhoon. It appears to be the worst one to hit the country in more than 60 years. At least 40 people are thought to be dead. And there is a lot of damage. NPR's Anthony Kuhn has been monitoring this storm from Seoul. Hi, Anthony.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Hi, Noel.

KING: So how powerful was this was this thing - was this typhoon?

KUHN: It looked really scary. If you looked at the map as this thing approached Japan, the storm system was so big, it covered the entire Japanese archipelago. It was rated as a Category 5 violent storm. It was packing winds of about 130 miles per hour, which diminished a little bit as it hit Japan's main island Saturday night. You could just see the power of the thing from videos - flipping cars and trucks like they were toys, leveling houses, sinking boats. And it dumped about 30 inches of rain in 24 hours. And the result of that was that 10 major rivers broke their banks; many more overflowed. And large swaths of land in low-lying river valleys were completely inundated. The central Japanese city of Nagano was very hard-hit. Eight prefectures in cities in central and eastern Japan were so hard-hit that they had to request military help.

KING: Wow. And we are hearing reports of at least 40 people dead. What do we know about them?

KUHN: The estimates vary a bit, but we know of quite a few individual cases. A Panamanian ship sank as it was anchored in Tokyo Bay during the storm. A woman who was being helicoptered to safety in Fukushima fell off that helicopter - fell from that helicopter and died. Some people were buried in landslides. Others were just swept away by raging floodwaters. And even as this was going on, as the storm was just about to hit, a magnitude 5.7 earthquake struck Chiba Prefecture not far from Japan. But luckily, nobody was killed in that.

KING: Wow. Jeez, an earthquake and a typhoon at the same time. You mentioned that - the military being called in to help in certain places. What does the recovery look like? How's it going?

KUHN: Well, they've been using rafts and helicopters to get stranded residents out. Transportation really ground to a halt. Flights and trains were affected. Those have largely resumed. More than a quarter million homes were without power, and a lot of that has been restored. There are still tens of thousand peoples - thousands of people stuck in evacuation centers. And in a lot of places, it's still raining, and there are concerns that that could make things worse and cause more landslides.

KING: Was Japan ready for this storm?

KUHN: People saw it coming from a long way away. They're comparing it to the typhoon that hit in 1958, which killed 1,200 people. And the difference now this time is that Japan just has much better infrastructure - better dams, levees and seawalls, many of which were shored up in advance of the typhoon.

KING: OK, probably saving some lives. NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Seoul, thanks so much.

KUHN: You're welcome, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.