Japanese troops join in typhoon rescue
Tue, Aug 11, 2009

TOKYO, Japan - Hundreds of Japanese troops helped in rescue operations Tuesday after floods and landslides brought by Typhoon Etau that have killed at least 13 people and left 18 missing, police and officials said.

Heavy downpours have drenched Japan since the weekend and caused flooding in the worst-hit city of Sayo in western Hyogo prefecture, where 12 of the deaths were reported after a swollen river burst its banks.

Typhoon Etau was churning through the Pacific Ocean but veering east and away from Japan's coast, according to weather reports around noon (1100 GMT+8).

The typhoon, packing winds of up to 126 kilometers (78 miles) an hour, had originally been forecast to move close to the Tokyo area, a region that was also hit by a strong earthquake early in the day.

The Japan Meteorological Agency issued warnings about possible landslides, cautioning that rain-soaked areas may have been destabilised by the magnitude 6.4 tremor that struck offshore at 5:07 am (0407 GMT Monday).

Rescue efforts continued Tuesday in Sayo, where three bridges were washed away after the river overran, a Hyogo prefectural official told AFP.

Some 400 military troops were helping search for 16 people missing in the city and joining in a clean-up operation.

Local residents were shovelling mud-caked furniture and belongings from their flooded shops and homes, television footage showed.

The disaster also affected neighbouring Okayama prefecture, where a 68-year-old woman died and three other people were injured when a landslide flattened two houses.

In Tokushima on the southwestern island of Shikoku, two people aged nine and 61 were missing, while two others were seriously injured, officials said.

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