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TOKAGE worst typhoon in Japan in 25 years


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Japan looks ahead after 77 die in worst typhoon for quarter century


Fri Oct 22, 1:50 PM ET


TOKYO (AFP) - The death toll from Japan's worst typhoon in a quarter century rose to 77 with 14 people still missing, as the devastation forced the government to consider emergency funds and new safety measures.


Typhoon Tokage, which ripped through Japan on Wednesday, also injured nearly 300 people, police said. More than 21,000 houses were flooded and 382 homes were destroyed or damaged under the force of hundreds of landslides.


Japan has suffered one trillion yen (9.3 billion dollars) in damage from the storm season in which a record 10 typhoons hit the country, the government said.


A survey by the Kyodo News agency found that two-thirds of the dead were aged 60 or older and many of them could not flee as Tokage rampaged through, packing winds of up to 144 kilometers (89 miles) per hour.


In one dramatic incident caught on camera, rescue teams plucked 37 mostly elderly people to safety after they spent nine hours under pouring rain on the top of their flooded tour bus.


Kazuo Kitagawa, the minister for land, infrastructure and transport, said the government would take a fresh look at its forecasting procedures.


"We need to examine if the conventional predictions on the levels of rainfall and water volume are really relevant," Kitagawa told reporters before heading to the worst-hit regions in the south of Japan.


The number of casualties from Tokage was the highest from a typhoon since October 1979 when 115 people were killed or presumed dead, a government official said.


"Has the Earth gone mad?" leading daily Asahi Shimbun asked in an editorial.


It noted that just before Tokage, hurricanes left more than 130 people dead in the United States and Caribbean nations.


The Asahi Shimbun said the spate of disasters could be the work of global warming and called on the world to come up with ways to prevent climate change.


The nine previous typhoons that have hit Japan this year caused a total of 102 deaths and left 13 missing and presumed dead.


The damage from this typhoon season already exceeds the bill for weather-related damage in 2003, which amounted to 940 billion yen (8.7 billion dollars). Last year's figure included damage to crops from a cold summer.


"This is very unusual. We have not seen anything like this for a long time," said a farm ministry official.


Late Thursday Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said the government may put together an additional budget to rebuild.


"At this moment, I am not thinking about it. But if necessary, I think it is OK to compile it," Koizumi told reporters.


The government's spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, said Friday putting together a special budget would take time and it would be preferable to find disaster spending "using existing budgets and reserves."



Of the one trillion yen in damage, some 534 billion yen was from the destruction of bridges, roads and dams with the rest comprising agricultural losses.


Tokage, which means lizard in Japanese, was the biggest typhoon to batter the country since 1991 when the Meteorological Agency began classifying typhoons by the size of their storm zones.


At its height, Tokage had an 800-kilometer (500-mile) radius of strong winds, enough to set off more than 700 landslides and flip over trains parked before the storm.




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