Historic flooding, landslides pose daunting task for rescuers as over 100 die

Blanche Robertson
July 12, 2018

Torrential rain caused floods and triggered landslides in western Japan last week, bringing death and destruction to neighborhoods built decades ago near steep mountain slopes.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. said its Mizushima plant in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, one of the hardest-hit areas, remained closed to ensure the safety of its workers.

Heavy rain poured down on the southwest and center of Japan earlier this month, causing flooding and landslides. Since Thursday, landslides and flooded rivers have trapped many people in their houses or on rooftops.

As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 50 people were still listed as unaccounted for, the newspaper said.

Policemen conduct a search operation for missing people in Kumano Town, Hiroshima Prefecture.

Raging floods in Japan have killed over 100 people and sparked mass-evacuation orders for several million residents of the island nation.

Even as the rains let up, authorities warned the downpours had loosened earth on hillsides and mountain slopes creating new risks.

Some 276,000 households now lack water supply, Kyodo news agency reported.

Over 70,000 emergency workers have been deployed to dig through flood waters and the aftermath of landslides that have transformed the landscape in parts of central and western Japan.

Assessment of the casualties was slowed by the scale of the area affected.

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Three people died at the scene in Ayabe City in Kyoto Prefecture, where two houses collapsed. However, around 80 people remained at the hospital as of Sunday evening, according to the NHK public broadcaster. Eiko Yamane, a resident of Hiroshima, explained to TIME, "Hiroshima prefecture is normally blessed with mild weather and has few natural disasters so people here have never experienced a situation like this".

More than 70,000 rescue workers, including the fire service and the army, are now involved in relief efforts.

The compound of a junior high school is flooded after heavy rains in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture, southwestern Japan, Saturday, July 7, 2018.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is now in Okayama to assess the extent of the damage.

One family sleeping there has had to send their young daughter away to live with relatives, after she became so distressed by the evacuation that she stopped eating.

Many of those who managed to evacuate have relied on water supplied by local municipalities and the Self-Defense Forces. Some people escaped the water by climbing onto the top of their homes while waiting to be rescued by helicopter. At the same time, it has been impossible to confirm the security and location of 78 others, " Suga told a news conference.

The Government mobilised 75,000 troops and emergency workers and almost 80 helicopters for the search and rescue effort, Mr Suga said. Critical infrastructure has been hit, including railway tracks.

At the moment a team of 54,000 rescuers composed of members of the military, police and fire departments has been dispatched across the west and southwest of Japan.

"We will unite and move swiftly to deliver those necessities to the disaster victims by coordinating closely with local government", Abe said.

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