Japan PM visits storm-hit areas; royal parade may be delayed

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday visited northern towns devasted by the deadly typhoon and promised residents his government's support for their speedy recovery.

Abe told reporters during the visit that he is considering postponing a royal parade scheduled for Tuesday to celebrate Emperor Naruhito's enthronement as the government needs to tackle the disaster.

"I'm determined to provide ample support for the reconstruction of your daily life. I know you are concerned about your health, but please hold up," Abe told one of the elderly female residents sitting on the wooden floor of an elementary school gymnasium in Koriyama city. He later visited the site of a damaged river embankment that flooded another city in Fukushima.

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During a trip to a town in neighboring Miyagi prefecture, Abe told reporters that the royal parade was likely to be postponed. Media reports cited Nov. 10 as a possible new date.

Rescue and relief efforts for stranded or missing people in flooded mountain villages continued Thursday, as the death toll climbed. NHK television counted 77 killed, while the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said 65 were pronounced dead.

Typhoon Hagibis hit northern and central Japan last weekend with historic rainfall that caused rivers to overflow and left thousands of homes flooded, damaged or without power.

Fukushima prefecture, struck in the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster, was among the hardest-hit with at least 26 dead.

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Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

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