Torrential rainfalls and landslides devastated the south-western and central regions of Japan presumably killing seventy-seven people and damaged 4000 households as of July 16, according to the reports of NHK – Japan’s national broadcaster. 3.6 million people across the country have been affected and ordered to evacuate their houses due to the heavy rains.
The Meteorological Agency of Japan issued a Level 5 alert for floods and landslides, its highest warning, for rain “never seen” before — the first time it has ever issued such an alert for two prefectures, reports The Japan Times.
The southwestern island of Kyushu, Japan’s third-largest island situated almost 500 miles (800 KM) from Tokyo with a population of nearly 13 million, has been the hardest-hit. It inundated rivers, triggering mudslides, and demolishing roads and houses – mainly the Kumamoto prefecture. Kyushu island alone reported seventy-one deaths and six missing persons.
The treacherous rain evacuated 203,200 residents in 92,200 households in Kumamoto and Kagoshima prefectures, causing them to seek shelter in the 109 emergency shelters spanning seventeen municipalities. However, the evacuation wasn’t made mandatory by the authorities because of the coronavirus crisis. Many families opted to stay with friends or resided in their vehicles.
Kuma village recorded a rainfall of 83.5 millimeters (3.3 inches) in an hour period, according to the meteorological agency. This caused the Kuma river to overrun its bank in eleven different locations, destroying houses and infrastructures in its path. Residents and caregivers of an elderly care home in Kuma Village were deluged with floodwater killing fourteen of its total sixty-five residents. The remaining fifty-one residents and thirty caregivers were trapped in the riverside care facility when rescuers came in.
In central Japan, more than twenty municipalities of the Nagano and Gifu regions flooded after intense rainfall, and the residents of these cities were evacuated by the government. Rainwater swamped Hida River, which destroyed a national highway and submerged dozens of households in the city.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe doubled the emergency rescue and relief personnel count to 80,000, including 20,000 Self-Defense Troops. He instructed the government to declare the rains in Japan an “extraordinary disaster” to enable the victims to receive special support and organized a shipment of relief supplies to affected residents.
The relief troops mobilized through flooded areas, the debris of landslides, and households to rescue all the stuck and missing people. The process was, however, hampered in many regions due to the accumulated wastage and demolished infrastructure. The task force of PM Abe was directed to co-operate with the local government to dispose of the waste for ease in rescue operations.
Economic activities in Kyushu were halted as the situation deteriorated. Toyota Motor, Mazda Motor, Panasonic and Canon temporarily stopped their manufacturing and operations.
To curb the transmission of coronavirus, preventive measures are taken by evacuation centers in every region. Schools, fire department and gymnasium-turned evacuation centers permit limited entries and move some to other locations to avoid overcrowding
“We had the capacity for 60 evacuees here in the past. But considering social distancing, 30 is appropriate at this time, so we had to ask some evacuees to move to another shelter,” said an official of the fire department.
Japan has officially reported 24,642 cases of COVID-19 with a death toll of 985.
Feature Image Via The Guardian.