Wednesday, 19 September, 2018

Death toll rises to 155 in Japan flooding, mudslides

Landslide warnings have been issued in over a quarter of the nation's prefectures GETTYLandslide warnings have been issued in over a quarter of the nation's prefectures
Melinda Barton | 13 July, 2018, 16:08

Japan has elaborate ways to deal with natural disasters, but unprecedented rains took people by surprise, killing at least 148 people.

Water accumulating behind piles of debris blocking rivers also posed a growing danger, as was seen on Monday when a swollen river began pouring into a residential area, prompting additional evacuation orders.

The rain may have stopped in Japan, but the country is facing a long recovery process after floods and landslides killed at least 90 people in the southwest.

She escaped the house on Saturday, crossing the street to take shelter in a three-storey care home for the elderly, from where she watched in horror as the waters rose.

Most of the deaths in Hiroshima, one of the hardest hit prefectures, were from landslides in areas where homes had been built up against steep slopes, beginning in the 1970s, said Takashi Tsuchida, a civil engineering professor at Hiroshima University.

One weather official noted that the region has "never experienced this kind of rain before".

"I can't go back if I wanted to", the 66-year-old retired Self-Defence serviceman said, holding a bird cage, in which the birds chirped as he spoke.

Construction worker Fukuyoshi Doi volunteering to get that done, and supervised other volunteers who gathered to help.

Since 2005, districts have been required to create and raise awareness of "hazard maps" for areas at risk of landslides and flooding.

The government has set up a taskforce to speed up deliveries of supplies and other support for evacuation centres and residents in the region, but disrupted roads and other ground transportation have delayed shipment, raising concerns of shortages.

Thousands of homes were still without clean water and electricity. However, residents are being warned to stay vigilant against heat stroke as the temperature is set to reach 34 degrees Celsius on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

In Kumano, a mountainside community in Hiroshima prefecture that was hit by a landslide last week, Ken Kirioka anxiously watched rescuers toiling through mud, sand and smashed houses to find the missing, including his 76-year-old father, Katsuharu.

"What we are getting is a thin stream of water, and we can't flush toilets or wash our hands", he added, standing over a 20-litre (4.4-gallon) plastic tank that was only partly filled after nearly four hours of waiting. People who have evacuated their homes have since returned and started cleanup.

Japan's government says Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has cancelled his planned July 11-18 trip to Europe and the Middle East to oversee the emergency response to deadly heavy rains.

In Hiroshima Prefecture, a tunnel that draws water from a river in the city of Hiroshima to pass it to Kure was blocked with earth and sand, halting the water supply to Kure and other areas.

Assessment of the casualties was slowed by the scale of the area affected. He has "commended the government's efforts to help people affected and expressed his admiration for the domestic search and rescue teams helping those in need", said spokesman Stephane Dujarric. As floodwater largely subsided, more damages became visible.