Desperate relatives braced for bad news Monday as rescuers dug through landslides in the wake of severe floods that have killed 100 people and left swathes of central and western Japan under water.
Among the worst hit areas was Hiroshima prefecture, where some villages were hit by landslides and other were nearly entirely submerged, forcing desperate residents to take shelter on rooftops. Some 30,000 people remained in shelters on Sunday, while the evacuation orders and advisories were issued for almost 6 million people, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said one area in Kochi prefecture had recorded 263mm of rain in three hours, the highest since such records started in 1976.
Policemen check a damaged vehicle following heavy rains and flooding in Hiroshima.
“The area became an ocean”, 82-year-old resident Nobue Kakumoto told AFP Sunday, surveying the scene.
Work crews could be seen elsewhere trying to clear multiple small landslides that coated roads in mud, rendering them virtually impassable.
Businesses continued to be affected, with automaker Mazda Motor Corp. and Daihatsu Motor Co., a minivehicle-making unit of Toyota Motor Corp., suspending operations in factories in Kyoto, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi. “We are also looking after evacuees and restoring lifeline infrastructure like water and gas”.
“We are doing our best”.
Scientists have warned that one effect of global warming could be an increase in rain-related disasters, and experts now say people should leave well in advance of evacuation orders where forecasts show heavy rain is possible.
“The electricity and water has been cut off”.
Public broadcaster NHK and several other media also reported the trip had been cancelled because of the crisis.
Scores of patients, some still in their pyjamas, and nurses were rescued from the isolated Mabi Memorial Hospital in boats rowed by members of Japan’s Self Defence Forces.
Toshihide Takigawa, 35, a petrol station worker in Hiroshima, said: “My house was washed away”. She was able to escape.
Since Thursday parts of western Japan have received three times the usual rainfall for the whole of July, setting off floods and landslides.
Authorities fear the toll will continue to rise as rescuers reach difficult-to-access areas.
“The washing machine, refrigerator, microwave, toaster, PC – they’re all destroyed”, she said as she cleaned her two-story house. “My body temperature has lowered”.
‘We are working hard to rescue them as quickly as possible.
Some patients waited on stretchers on the roof of the hospital building and were rescued by a helicopter.
In neighboring Hiroshima Prefecture, one of the 12 people who went missing after being engulfed by landslides in the town of Kumano was found dead.
The Japanese government says at least 100 people have died or are presumed dead from the heavy rains, floods and mudslides that have struck western Japan.