Typhoon Hagibis: Rescuers dig for missing in mudslides as 48 killed

Alix Culbertson, news reporter

Rescue crews in Japan are digging through mudslides and searching rivers for those missing after a typhoon killed 48 people.

Following the downgrade of Typhoon Hagibis to a tropical storm on Sunday, a total of 17 people are missing and about 100 injured, according to the Kyodo news agency.

Helicopters, boats and thousands of troops have been deployed to rescue those stranded in flooded and damaged homes, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saying many people remain missing and the damage is extensive.

Rescue crews have been paddling in boats to reach half-submerged homes in badly flooded areas, calling out to anyone left stranded.

Thousands have been left without power.

On Sunday a woman in her 70s died after she was accidentally dropped 40m (131ft) from a helicopter rescuing her from an area devastated by Typhoon Hagibis.

The Tokyo Fire Department admitted the pensioner had not been strapped in properly while being airlifted in Iwaki city in Fukushima prefecture.

Officials apologised during a news conference, bowing deeply and for a long time, in accordance with Japanese custom.

Since Typhoon Hagibis made landfall south of Tokyo on Saturday evening, an estimated 1,283 homes have flooded and 517 more damaged.

The typhoon brought record amounts of rain in some spots, causing more than 20 rivers to overflow.

In Kanagawa prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, one metre of rain was recorded over 48 hours.

At least five crew members died after a cargo ship sank off Japan's coast - and four other members of the 12-strong crew were brought to safety.

The ship had been anchored off the coast of Kawasaki city, south of Tokyo, when it lost contact on Saturday, the transport ministry said.

As the typhoon was downgraded to a tropical storm on Sunday, authorities started to help clear up areas where houses have been destroyed and rivers flooded.

Prime Minister Abe said the government would set up a special disaster team to deal with the devastation, including helping people in evacuation centres and increasing efforts to restore water and electricity.

"Our response must be rapid and appropriate," he said.

Soldiers and firefighters have been deployed throughout Japan as helicopters could be seen rescuing people stranded from higher floors and rooftops of submerged homes.

A rescue helicopter was seen hovering in a flooded area of Nagano prefecture, one of the most severely hit areas after an embankment of the Chikuma River broke.

The aircraft picked up those stranded on the second floor of a home submerged in muddy waters.

Aerial footage showed tractors trying to control the flooding and several people on a rooftop, with one person waving a white cloth to get the attention of a helicopter.

The Tama River, which runs by Tokyo, overflowed its banks, flooding homes and other buildings in the area.

Scotland's Rugby World Cup game against Japan, which was won by the home team, went ahead on Sunday despite the typhoon, but the Namibia vs Canada game was cancelled.

All matches on Saturday were cancelled.

Tokyo's airports gradually resumed service on Sunday after shutting down on Saturday due to the high winds and strong rain.