Dozens leave Japan mudslide island to beat new typhoon

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.