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Japan to use 710 million yen from reserves to tackle typhoon damage

A man clears up rubbish in Nagano which was hit by flooding caused by Typhoon Hagibis. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan will disburse about 710 million yen ($6.5 million) from reserves in the fiscal 2019 budget to deal with the aftermath of the most powerful typhoon to hit the country in decades, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday.

The funds will be used to set up temporary toilets and send necessities such as water, food and cardboard beds to shelters in central, eastern and northeastern parts of the country flooded by record-breaking rainfall over the weekend.

As of Wednesday morning, there were about 4,400 evacuees in 188 shelters, according to the Cabinet Office. Officials said the government is considering earmarking a larger share of the reserves for disaster relief and crafting a supplementary budget.

Meanwhile, rescuers continued to wade through mud to search for survivors of Typhoon Hagibis -- though the first 72 hours considered critical for finding more people have lapsed.

At least 74 people were killed by the typhoon and more than a dozen were missing, according to a Kyodo News tally, based on official information collected from each region.

Speaking at the House of Councillors Budget Committee, Abe reiterated a government plan to survey affected regions and determine whether they could be designated as suffering from a serious disaster, which would trigger further subsidies for recovery efforts.

"We will make the utmost effort so the disaster victims can return to their lives without worries as soon as possible," he said.

As Japan has been hit by a number of natural disasters in recent years -- including Typhoon Faxai in September, which devastated wide areas of Chiba Prefecture near Tokyo, and torrential rain in western Japan last year, which left more than 200 people dead -- Abe said he aims to create a "land that is strong and resilient against disasters" in the long run.

The northeast, devastated by the 2011 massive earthquake and tsunami, was especially hard hit by the latest typhoon -- with a death toll of 26 in Fukushima the highest among Japan's 47 prefectures -- after the Abukuma River burst its banks.

A major search-and-rescue operation continued in Marumori, Miyagi Prefecture, through which the Abukuma runs and where the deaths of five people have been confirmed. Officials said the river's water levels reached as high as 23 meters.

The infrastructure ministry has confirmed collapsed embankments at 79 locations along 55 rivers as of 5 a.m., up from 74 announced Tuesday as it continues to assess the extent of the damage.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said it plans to set up a panel of experts to study damage along seven state-controlled rivers that flooded neighboring areas.

The panel plans to draw conclusions in a few months as to why river embankments collapsed, and how to rebuild them in a more resilient way.

The seven rivers include the Abukuma, the Chikuma in Nagano Prefecture and the Yoshida in Miyagi Prefecture.

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