Dozens leave Japan mudslide island to beat new typhoon

Dozens leave Japan mudslide island to beat new typhoon
Members of the fire brigade remove debris while searching for missing people after a landslide caused by heavy rains from Typhoon Wipha hit Oshima islandon on October 23, 2013.

TOKYO - More than 50 people were being evacuated from a storm-battered Japanese island Wednesday, where mudslides left 45 dead or missing last week, ahead of another typhoon expected to strike this weekend.

A total of 32 mostly elderly people in need of nursing care, attended by 19 others, boarded a chartered high-speed ferry for the two-hour ride from Oshima to Tokyo, some 120 kilometres (75 miles) to the north, island officials said.

A defence force helicopter was evacuating three other people from the volcanic island on the same day, said Masahiro Mukoyama, a senior official at the Oshima town office.

The town has chartered a ferry to evacuate more people on Thursday and later, the official said, as Typhoon Francisco lurked in the northwestern Pacific on course to hit Japan in a few days' time.

It was the first systematic evacuation from Oshima since 1986 when the island's volcano erupted and forced all 10,000 then-residents to flee by sea, Mukoyama said.

"A certain number of people have already left the island on a voluntary basis," in addition to those being evacuated he said.

Meanwhile, the death toll from the landslides a week ago rose to 30 as about 1,700 troops, police and firefighters continued searching for 15 others still unaccounted for.

The island, whose residents nowadays number around 8,000, is a popular tourist spot. Around 210,000 people visited last year, drawn by plentiful camelia blooms and the volcano's accessible caldera.


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