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At least 13 dead as typhoon grazes Japan

Update: October, 16/2013 - 11:42

TOKYO – At least 13 people died as the powerful Typhoon Wipha churned past Tokyo, causing landslides that swallowed houses on a Japanese island on Wednesday, police said.

Around 38 people were unaccounted for after five houses were destroyed or swept away by a series of landslides and floods on Oshima island, which sits some 120 kilometres south of the Japanese capital, according to officials and public broadcaster NHK.

A further three people were missing in the greater Tokyo area, officials and reports said.

"We've confirmed seven people died because of the typhoon but we don't have further details here at this point," an Oshima police official said.

Emergency workers had rescued two people who were trapped inside a destroyed house by around 8am (2300 GMT), NHK said, adding police and firefighters have not been able to get to many areas.

The bodies of two of those who died were discovered in a swollen river, while one other was pulled from a crushed house, NHK said.

"City hall and fire station officials are doing rescue work in places accessible," a local official said.

The local authority has not been able to confirm the whereabouts of 38 of the island's more than 8,300 residents.

It was not known if they were simply unable to make contact or if their situation was more grave.

Live footage showed severe storm damage to the tourist island known for its camellia flowers.

Mud, mangled trees and other debris were piled up around houses, while many local residents had sought shelter in an evacuation centre, reporting dirty water had been gushing into their homes, according to local media.

Tokyo Metropolitan Police is to dispatch about 50 special police officers to the island as reinforcements, Jiji Press said.

In Kanagawa prefecture, south of Tokyo, helicopters were being used to look for two elementary school boys who were believed to have been near a beach during the storm, a police spokesman said.

And fears were growing for the safety of a man in his 50s in Chiba prefecture, who has been missing since telling police there had been a landslide behind his house.

Further north, the operator of the battered Fukushima nuclear plant said it had released some rain water that was trapped inside its barrages, but added that its radiation reading was within safety limits.

It reported no ill effects on the power station, where thousands of tonnes of radiation-polluted water are being stored in tanks after being used to cool reactors.

Typhoon Wipha, which had not made landfall, brought heavy rains and strong winds to Tokyo's metropolitan area, heavily disrupting the morning commute for hundreds of thousands of people.

At 0100 GMT, it was located in the Pacific some 160km east of Koriyama in Fukushima prefecture, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

It was moving northeast, gradually shifting away from Japan, the agency said.AFP

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