The area is flooded by tsunami in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture (state) as Japan was struck by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday, March 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, FOR COMMERCIAL USE ONLY IN NORTH AMERICA
TOKYO (CNN) -- Western Japan struggled Monday in the aftermath of Typhoon Talas, which swept across the area with record rainfall that triggered landslides and flooding, killing at least 22 people and leaving 51 missing, local authorities said.
"I have been working for the prefectural office over 40 years, but this is the worst in my memory," said Tsutomu Furukawa, spokesperson of Wakayama Prefecture. Wakayama is one of three prefectures on the mountainous Kii Peninsula, where damage from Typhoon Talas was concentrated as the storm swept across the area on Saturday.
In the town of Nachi Katsuura in Wakayama, eight people died and 13 were missing after a river flooded into a residential area and mudslides swallowed several homes, officials said.
Rescue teams could not reach the area by land, and continued search-and-rescue operation from helicopters.
"The (assessment of) damage by the typhoon might increase once the rescuers can reach the area on land," Furukawa said.
More than 16,000 residents were ordered to evacuate from the Kii Peninsula, and another nearly 30,000 residents were encouraged to evacuate voluntarily.
According to Japan's meteorological agency, Talas brought record rain in the three prefectures over three days, with the rain continuing until Sunday night. The Japanese government set up a emergency task force for search-and-rescue operations, and to begin reconstruction of damaged communities.