TOKYO, October 13 (Reuters) – On Sunday, Japan sent tens of thousands of soldiers and rescue workers to rescue stranded residents and fight flooding by one of the worst Typhoons hit the country in recent history, killing 18 people and temporarily paralyzing Tokyo.
According to the NHK public broadcaster, 13 people were missing when the typhoon flooded Hagibi's large parts of low-lying land in central and eastern Japan, supplying nearly half a million households with electricity.
The landing restrictions at Narita and Haneda airports in Tokyo were lifted, but more than 800 flights were canceled for that day, NHK said, as well as some Shinkansen high-speed trains to the worst affected areas.
The authorities lifted the rain warnings for the Kanto region around a tranquil Tokyo, where business was reopened and many railways were reopened. However, they warned that the rivers in eastern Japan could still overrun and inflict new damage.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe convened an emergency meeting of ministers responsible and sent the disaster management minister to the affected areas. He expressed his condolences to the families of those killed and said that the government is working to save the lives and property of the people.
"The government will do everything in its power to work with the relevant authorities and operators working to restore services as soon as possible," Abe said. The government also set up a task force to fix the damage, NHK reported.
Approximately 27,000 members of Japanese self-defense forces, as well as firefighters, policemen and coast guards, were dispatched to rescue stranded people in Nagano's central Japanese prefecture and elsewhere, the government said.
NHK said the full extent of widespread damage had only begun because many areas remained submerged.
Around 425,000 houses are without electricity, the government said. The fear that the week-long power outages that had occurred after a renewed typhoon east of Tokyo last month, was again loud.
In Fukushima, north of the capital, Tokyo Electric Power Co reported erratic readings from sensors monitoring the water at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station overnight. The plant was shut down in 2011 by an earthquake and tsunami.
Hagibis, meaning Tagalog "speed" in the Philippine language, landed on Japan's main island Honshu on Saturday night and left early Sunday morning at sea cloudless sky and high temperatures throughout the country ,
NHK showed fields and extensive residential areas in parts of central and eastern Japan covered with brown water. Some of the worst damage was caused by the Chikuma River in Nagano Prefecture.
Military helicopters carried stranded people from homes near the river, some cradled their children after being trapped by water reaching the roofs of their homes.
The first floor of a large nursing home in Nagano was shown underwater.
Rescue workers took residents of another flooded elderly care facility with inflatable boats and carried them on their backs to safety. They also searched for survivors in homes destroyed by landslides near Tokyo's suburbs and Fukushima Prefecture.
At some point in time, the authorities issued evacuation instructions and ordered more than 6 million people across Japan, as the storm triggered the heaviest rain and wind in years. So far, nearly 150 injuries have been reported, NHK said.
The storm, which the government said could hit Tokyo hardest since 1958, caused record rainfall in many areas, including the popular resort of Hakone, which was overburdened with 939.5 mm (37 inches) of rainfall 24 hours.
The Japanese weather agency had issued the highest alert for 12 prefectures, warned of possible rains in recent decades, but lifted them early on Sunday.
Just last month, another strong storm, the Typhoon Faxai, destroyed or damaged 30,000 homes in Chiba, east of Tokyo, causing extensive power outages.
The Rugby World Cup match between Namibia and Canada in Kamaishi on Sunday was canceled, despite the fact that the decisive game Japan-Scotland was launched. Two games were canceled on Saturday.
The organizers of the Formula One Grand Prix race had also canceled all Saturday's scheduled training and qualifying sessions. (Report by Makiko Yamazaki, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Chang-Ran Kim, Additional coverage by Ritsuko Shimizu, Editor of Shri Navaratnam and Paul Tait)