TOKYO: At least 11 people were found dead in Japan on Wednesday, most of them elderly residents at a nursing home, as heavy overnight rain from Typhoon Lionrock left towns flooded across the country’s north.
Police discovered nine bodies in the town of Iwaizumi while checking another facility in the flooded neighborhood, said Takehiro Hayashijiri, an official at the Iwate prefecture disaster management division.
The identity of the victims and other details, including the whereabouts of their caretakers, were not known, Hayashijiri said. Japanese public broadcaster NHK said the home was for people with dementia.
Authorities have found two more bodies — one in the same town and the second in another town of Kuji — in Iwate prefecture, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.
Footage on Japan’s national broadcaster NHK showed the nursing home partially buried in mud, surrounded by debris apparently washed down in the swollen river. A car by the home was turned upside down.
At another nursing home, a rescue helicopter perched atop a flat roof of the facility, airlifting residents, each wrapped in a blanket and carried by their helpers.
“We’re making a government-wide effort to assess the extent of damage,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.
The government sent the Self-Defense Force, Japan’s military, to help in the rescue and cleanup effort.
Further north, on the island of Hokkaido, at least two rivers broke through their banks.
The embankments gave way early Wednesday morning, NHK said, quoting Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Tourism. The disaster management agency said at least one person went missing while driving or riding in a car that went down with a bridge torn away by the flood.
Authorities in the town of Minamifurano reported hundreds of people trapped in houses and shelters by flooding from the Sorachi river, the agency said. Hundreds of other people were also trapped in buildings and isolated in several towns in Iwate.
Typhoon Lionrock made landfall Tuesday evening near the city of Ofunato, 500 kilometers (310 miles) northeast of Tokyo on the Pacific coast and crossed the main island of Honshu before heading out to the Sea of Japan.
It was the first time a typhoon has made landfall in the northern region since 1951, when the Japan Meteorological Agency started keeping records.
The scene of large parts of northern Japan covered with muddy water was a shocking reminder of the major tsunami that struck the same region five years ago.
Iwate prefecture, the hardest-hit by the typhoon, is one of the areas still rebuilding from the March 2011 tsunami and earthquake, which left more than 18,000 people dead along Japan’s northeastern coast.