Rescue workers, police and troops in Japan battled Monday to reach people feared trapped by devastating flooding and landslides after days of record rainfall killed at least 75 people. The bad weather unfolded earlier this week as the remnants of a typhoon hit western Japan.
The severe rain caused rivers to overflow, in some cases covering whole towns. At one point during the flooding, evacuation orders were given for almost 6 million people across 19 prefectures.
Authorities have warned that landslides could strike even if the rainfall diminishes.
Emergency service workers pass a damaged road following a landslide, on July 10, 2018 in Yanohigashi near Hiroshima, Japan. Meanwhile, automakers have suspended manufacturing in Kyoto and Osaka and Mazda has suspended operations in Hiroshima, citing the delayed delivery of parts and the difficulty in getting people to work.
Some cities within Okayama prefecture saw flooding of almost 30 percent of the total area, while the number of partially or fully destroyed homes nationwide exceeds 10,000.
More than 20,000 people were killed or went missing during the 2011 disaster, when a 9.0-magnitude quake hit Japan, triggering a tsunami and nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant. “We’ve never experienced this kind of rain before”, an official at the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) told media.
In the city of Kurashiki, the flooding engulfed entire districts at one point, forcing some people to their rooftops to wait for rescue. Around 300 people spent the night at the Okada Elementary School, many of them sleeping on blue mats laid out in the school’s gym.
Since the downpours started Thursday, evacuations had been ordered for up to 5.9 million people in 19 prefectures, according to The Japan Times, but this has been scaled back to 2 million since the weekend.
The deluge began Thursday, as torrential rains pounded major parts of the country, including the cities of Hiroshima and Kyoto.
European Union chief Donald Tusk has suggested moving the postponed summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Tokyo next week. His wife, who stayed behind and let her husband flee, was among more than 20 people who were found dead in the city, where a river dike collapsed.
The toll has risen steadily since then, and conditions have made rescue operations hard, with some desperate citizens taking to Twitter to call for help. Critical infrastructure has been hit, including railway tracks.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits a shelter for people affected by the recent flooding in Mabi, Okayama prefecture on Wednesday.
The toll in days of devastating rains in southwestern Japan has risen to 100, the government’s top spokesman said Monday, as search-and-rescue operations continued.
And casualties are higher than in 2014, when more than 70 people died in landslides caused by torrential rain in Hiroshima.