TOKYO, Japan – Typhoon Wipha packed winds of up to 110 mph as it passed along Japan's coast early Wednesday, snarling travel in Tokyo and causing floods and mudslides that left at least 17 people dead.
The powerful storm made landfall during the morning rush hour, grounding domestic flights and prompting the suspension of bullet trains.
But the most damage centered around Izu Ohshima, an island of 8,400 residents, 75 miles south of Tokyo where a record breaking torrential rain triggered landslides and caused rivers to overflow.
According to the public broadcaster NHK, at least 13 people have been found dead on the island from collapsed homes or buried in mudslides, and rescue workers are searching for over 50 residents who still haven't been unaccounted for.
A woman from Tokyo died after falling into a river and being washed 6 miles downriver to Yokohama, police said, according to Reuters. Two sixth-grade boys and another person were missing on Japan's main island, Honshu, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said.
More than 350 homes were damaged or destroyed, including 283 on Izu Oshima, it said.
An NASA satellite image shows Typhoon Wipha off Japan. A typhoon described as the "strongest in 10 years" was closing in on Japan Tuesday, on a path that will take it towards the precarious Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Japan's Meteorological Agency warned on Tuesday that the typhoon was expected to be the strongest in a decade.
Local television stations showed aerial pictures of a mountain in Ohshima that had been completely caved in by the rain, depicting the large track of damage it left behind.
While the storm moved north and is expected to weaken, the government's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga urged the public to remain vigilant of the latest weather information and to take ample precaution.
Tokyo Electric Power Corp., operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, said it would call off all offshore work.
The utility also plans to remove cranes and secure all cables, hoses and machinery, a company spokesman told Reuters.
Four Japanese oil refining companies said they halted marine berth shipments in eastern Japan as the typhoon made its approach, but there was no substantial effect on refining operations, Reuters reported.
CREDIT: Arata Yamamoto and Daniel Arkin, NBC News, Reuters contributed to this report.