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Japan typhoon death toll rises to 58 as hopes for missing fade

TOKYO, Oct 15 (Reuters) - The death toll in the worst typhoon to hit Japan for decades climbed to 58 on Tuesday as rescuers slogged through mud and debris in an increasingly grim search for the missing and as thousands of homes remained without power or water.

The storm hit a wide swathe of central and eastern Japan, with 15 missing and some 211 injured nearly three days after Typhoon Hagibis - whose name means "speed" in the Philippine language Tagalog - lashed Japan with high winds and intense rains, NHK national broadcaster said.

Some 138,000 households were without water while 24,000 lacked electricity, a far cry from the hundreds of thousands without power just after the storm but cause for concern in northern areas where the weather was starting to turn chilly.

The highest toll was in Fukushima prefecture north of Tokyo, where levees burst in at least 14 places along the Abukuma River, which meanders through a number of cities in the agricultural prefecture.

At least 18 died in Fukushima, including a mother who was caught up in flood waters with her two children, one of whose death was confirmed on Monday while the other, a little boy, remained missing.

Thousands of police, fire officials and military personnel continued to search for people who may have been cut off by floodwaters and landslides set off by the storm, with hope diminishing that the missing would be found alive.

Survivors described how waters rose rapidly to chest height in roughly an hour and mainly at night, making it hard to escape to higher ground. Many of the dead in Fukushima were elderly, NHK said.

"I couldn't believe it, the water came up so fast," one man in Fukushima told NHK.

Though the threat of rain is expected to diminish on Tuesday, temperatures are likely to drop in many areas later this week, in some cases to unseasonably low temperatures, NHK said. (Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Sam Holmes)