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Tokyo (AFP) Oct 23, 2013
More than 50 people were 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, disembarked from a chartered high-speed ferry at Tokyo port after a two-hour ride from Oshima, some 120 kilometres (75 miles) to the south, officials said.
A military helicopter was evacuating three other people from the volcanic Pacific island on the same day, said Masahiro Mukoyama, a senior official at the Oshima town office.
The town has chartered a ferry to get more people out 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.
The evacuees were to be lodged at a sports facility and nursing homes in the capital.
There were about 500 more elderly people who need care, or who have mobility or other problems left on the island, an official from the town 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 typhoon, which is packing winds of up to 144 kilometres (90 miles) per hour, was expected to bring more heavy rain to an already-sodden Pacific coastline, and further complicate efforts to find bodies on Oshima among the tonnes of mud.
The island, whose residents nowadays number 8,000, is a popular tourist spot. Around 210,000 people visited last year, drawn by plentiful camellia blooms and the volcano's accessible caldera.
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