Typhoon Hagibis has now caused at least 19 deaths, and 16 people are still missing after the storm made landfall in Japan on Saturday and was later downgraded to a tropical storm, NPR reports. About 100 people were also injured in the storm, which was said to be equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane.
Rescue boats, helicopters, and military troops were called into action to rescue those trapped in flooding. The Associated Press reported that one woman was killed when she fell from a helicopter during an attempted rescue.
The typhoon hit south of Tokyo in Shizuoka prefecture as a 5.7 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of neighboring Chiba prefecture. Local news agencies said that 14 rivers in the region were flooded, some in more than one location.
In several areas, only the tops of houses and trees could be seen due to the floodwaters. News footage showed people standing on rooftops waving to get the attention of helicopters.
Mudslides an ongoing problem
Mudslides in the flooded areas have already buried homes, and rescue crews are searching for survivors. Police have warned that more mudslides are still possible.
Tens of thousands of people are flocking to evacuation shelters as more than 6 million have been warned to leave their homes.
Rugby matches in the ongoing Rugby World Cup had to be canceled on Saturday, and a portion of the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix had to be moved to Sunday.
Hagibis was expected to be the largest typhoon to hit Japan in 61 years. It was likened to the 1958 Kanagawa Typhoon, which killed more than 1,200 people.
Meteorologists from around the world pointed out that Hagibis strengthened from a tropical storm to a typhoon at a record pace, faster than has typically been observed in other storms, according to the Japan Times.
Death toll likely to rise
The death toll from Hagibis is expected to rise as rescue operations continue. The nation was already dealing with last month’s Typhoon Faxai, which damaged 30,000 homes in the Kanto area, most of which had not yet been fully repaired.
With Hagibis, 1,283 homes have been flooded so far and 517 have been partially or totally damaged.
The likelihood of further typhoons of this kind occurring in Japan is high because of prevailing weather conditions in the region, according to meteorologists.