TOKYO – The death toll from Tropical Storm Meari (search) rose to 19 Thursday after searchers found more victims, including two men buried inside their homes beneath mud and debris that barreled down a Japanese mountainside.
Meari has cut a wide swath through Japan (search) since Sunday, causing floods and deadly landslides and forcing about 10,000 people to flee their homes for shelters. Eight people were reported missing and at least 80 others were injured.
By late Thursday, the storm — downgraded from a typhoon after it blew through southern Okinawa toward the main islands — had moved east out to the Pacific Ocean, about 250 miles northeast of Tokyo, the Meteorological Agency said.
The tempest was slowing and losing steam, but strong winds still were blowing along its tail end, the agency said.
Troops, firefighters and forest rangers working through the night recovered the body of a 68-year-old man in Miyagawa, about 210 miles southwest of Tokyo, Mie prefecture (state) police said. A 34-year-old man was found nearby later.
Four people were confirmed to have died in a mudslide in southern Ehime prefecture after rescue workers recovered the body of a 63-year-old woman Thursday afternoon. In the same area, the body of a 54-year-old man was found after being washed away in a flood, a National Police Agency spokesman said.
The official death toll was 19, the NPA spokesman said. That included 11 people in Ehime, six in Mie and two others in separate southern prefectures.
With the help of heavy-duty mechanical shovels, workers resumed their search for eight missing people after suspending it for fear of more landslides.
The storm has disrupted flights as well as train and ferry services, leaving thousands of travelers stranded. Landslides and winds damaged or destroyed dozens of homes, and more than 32 inches of rain in some areas caused rivers to swell and pour into streets.
Power has been restored to all but about 5,000 of the nearly 90,000 homes that lost power in southern and western Japan, utility officials said.
About 10,000 people fled their homes for public shelters, but some public schools reopened after closing Wednesday, Japanese media said.
Seven typhoons have hit Japan this year, exceeding the past record of six in 1990.
Earlier this month, Typhoon Songda (search) killed at least 32 people and injured more than 900 as it hit Japan's western coast.