34 die as heavy rain causes floods, mudslides in Japan

Published July 6, 2020
Japan almost always suffers from flooding during its rainy season but rescue and evacuation efforts this year have been further complicated by the coronavirus outbreak. — AFP
Japan almost always suffers from flooding during its rainy season but rescue and evacuation efforts this year have been further complicated by the coronavirus outbreak. — AFP

TOKYO: About 34 people are either confirmed or feared dead — including 14 at a nursing home — after torrential rain in Japan triggered massive floods and mudslides, authorities said on Sunday.

Rescuers were searching for 14 others still missing after floods hit the Kumamoto region on the southwestern island of Kyushu, destroying houses, sweeping away vehicles and causing bridges to collapse.

The regional government confirmed 18 people had died, while another 16 were declared in a state of “cardio-respiratory arrest” — a term often used in Japan before a doctor officially certifies death.

Fourteen of those feared dead were at a nursing home inundated when local rivers broke their banks. Emergency services rescued 50 people from the facility.

“Tables and sofas were floating around and you could not move,” an official, who helped lead rescue efforts at the home where his wheelchair-bound elderly mother was among the victims, told private TV network JNN.

Japan almost always suffers from flooding during its rainy season but rescue and evacuation efforts this year have been further complicated by the coronavirus outbreak.

Authorities at emergency shelters made evacuees wash their hands, wear masks and maintain social distance to avoid the virus adding to the problems.

“We will do our utmost to prevent the spread of the infection and make the lives of those who had to flee their home as comfortable as possible,” Disaster Management Minister Ryota Takeda told reporters after visiting a gymnasium in Hitoyoshi city where 600 residents are sheltering.

At a cabinet-level meeting in Tokyo on the disaster, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged financial support, while warning residents in Kumamoto to brace for more rain.

“As we speak, more than 40,000 personnel from police, fire, coast guard and Self-Defence troops are conducting search and rescue operations which will continue through the night,” Abe said.

“Saving lives is our priority.” Heavy rain is expected in the region through Monday, Abe added.

“We must remain vigilant,” he said, warning residents to monitor news for further risks associated with flooding and landslides.

Communities along the Kuma River, which passes through Hitoyoshi, have been hit hard by the floodwaters. Although the rain had eased in Kumamoto by Sunday morning, collapsed bridges and blocked roads due to flooding and mudslides have left many isolated in the region.

A large “SOS” sign was created on the grounds of what used to be an elementary school in Yatsushiro city, where about 10 people waved white towels at rescue and media helicopters.

Rescue workers and troops from the Self-Defense Forces used boats and helicopters to reach those stranded. Television footage showed choppers winching people to safety from homes surrounded by muddy water.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2020

Opinion

Editorial

Bad measures
Updated 25 Jul, 2024

Bad measures

They do not seem to have realised that they have put the country’s best interests at risk.
Hamas-Fatah deal
25 Jul, 2024

Hamas-Fatah deal

THE Beijing Declaration signed in the Chinese capital on Tuesday reiterates the need for internal Palestinian unity...
Rating risks
25 Jul, 2024

Rating risks

FINANCE Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb’s recent discussions with the executives of the two top global credit rating...
Reforming militants
24 Jul, 2024

Reforming militants

Such initiatives have been tried before, in Swat for instance, at centres run by the military as well as NGOs.
IPP debate
24 Jul, 2024

IPP debate

A FIERCE debate blaming the exorbitant electricity prices on expensive power purchase agreements with IPPs has been...
Political vendettas
24 Jul, 2024

Political vendettas

IT seems that the PML-N and PPP need to be reminded again that they are doing themselves a considerable disservice ...