At least 26 people were killed in the typhoon and vast sections of towns were left underwater.
Another 18 were missing and 175 injured after Typhoon Hagibis, which paralyzed Tokyo Saturday, dumped record levels of rain, public broadcaster NHK said. Almost half a million homes lost power.
Ten rivers in central and northeastern Japan burst their banks while dozens of others had overflowed, the government said, complicating rescue efforts. Evacuation centers filled up with residents, while some perished on their way to seek shelter, washed away by the flooding.
Some of the worst damage hit Nagano city, central Japan, where the Chikuma River burst its banks, inundating large swaths of land in brown water and forcing military helicopters to airlift stranded people from homes.
At one evacuation center there, Kiyokazu Shimokawa, 71, said he waited all night with his wife and mother until they were finally rescued around 3 p.m. local time Sunday.
“I made the mistake of figuring that as long as we were on the second floor of the house, we’d be fine,” he told Reuters. “When we realized that maybe we should evacuate, it was too late – the water rose very quickly.”
Rie Hasegawa, a woman in her 30s, said she never imagined her landlocked town would face a water-related disaster, recounting how shocked she was at how fast it all happened.
“The force of the water was incredible. It was dark, frightening, and I thought this might be the end,” she said.
Hagibis, which means “speed” in the Philippine language Tagalog, made landfall on Japan’s main island of Honshu Saturday evening and headed out to sea early Sunday.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe convened an emergency meeting of relevant ministers and sent the minister in charge of disaster management to affected areas.
“The government will do everything in its power to cooperate with relevant agencies and operators working to restore services as soon as possible,” he said. The government set up a task force to deal with the damage.
NHK said the full extent of the widespread damage was only beginning to emerge because many areas remained underwater.
Some 425,000 homes were without power, the government said, reviving fears of a repeat of the weeks-long power outages suffered after another typhoon hit east of Tokyo last month.
Landing restrictions at Tokyo’s Narita and Haneda airports were lifted but more than 800 flights were canceled for the day, NHK said, as were some Shinkansen bullet train services to the worst-hit areas.
Just last month, another strong storm, Typhoon Faxai, destroyed or damaged 30,000 houses in Chiba, east of Tokyo, and caused extensive power outages.
The Rugby World Cup match between Namibia and Canada in Kamaishi Sunday was canceled, although the Japan-Scotland match went ahead. Two matches were canceled Saturday.
Formula One Grand Prix organizers had also canceled all practice and qualifying sessions scheduled for Saturday.