Updated: 10/16/2013 08:42 | By Agence France-Presse

At least three dead as typhoon grazes Japan

At least three people died as Typhoon Wipha -- the "strongest in 10 years" -- passed close to Tokyo, causing landslides that swallowed houses on a Japanese island Wednesday, reports said.

At least three dead as typhoon grazes Japan

Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato (3rd R) inspects contaminated water tanks at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant on October 15, 2013

Around 30 people were unaccounted for after five houses were destroyed or swept away by a series of landslides and floods on Oshima island, which sits some 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of the Japanese capital, according to national broadcaster NHK.

Emergency workers had rescued two people who were trapped inside a destroyed house by around 8 am (2300 GMT), NHK said, adding police and firefighters have not been able to access many areas.

Tokyo Metropolitan Police announced two bodies had been discovered in a swollen river and one had been pulled from a smashed house, NHK said.

The local authority has not been able to confirm the safety of some 30 of the island's more than 8,300 residents, NHK said. It was not known if they were simply unable to make contact or if their situation was more grave.

Calls to local Oshima police went unanswered. 

But live footage of the island showed severe storm damage to the tourist island known for its camellia flowers.

Mud, mangled trees and other debris were piled up around houses, while many local residents had sought shelter in an evacuation centre, reporting muddy water had been gushing into their homes, according to local media.

Further north, the operator of the battered Fukushima nuclear plant said it had released some rain water that was trapped inside its barrages, but added that its radiation reading was within safety limits.

Typhoon Wipha, which had not made landfall, brought heavy rains and strong winds to Tokyo's metropolitan area, heavily disrupting the morning commute. 

At 2200 GMT, it was located in the Pacific some 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of Chiba prefecture, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

It was moving northeast, gradually shifting away from Japan, the agency said.

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