- Japan’s Meteorological Agency has stated that the rains are expected to continue until July 12.
- The evacuation was not mandatory, but the current global pandemic has further complicated it.
- The country is prone to floods and landslides, and is in the middle of its annual rainy season.
Heavy rains continue pounding Japan, causing deadly floods in the southern part of the country. The floods have triggered landslides that have destroyed homes and made roads impassable. As of Thursday the death toll had risen to 59 as search and rescue operations continue.
Japan’s Meteorological Agency has stated that the rains are expected to continue until July 12, and called for people living in low-lying area, as well as flood and landslides, to be extra vigilant. The Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga urged residents to use caution. “Disasters may happen even with little rain where ground has loosened from previous rainfall,” he said.
At the peak of the disaster, around 3.6 million people had been advised to evacuate, although half of the advisories had been lifted by Wednesday. One man said he just couldn’t leave his home. “I was told to run away and my neighbors all went, but I stayed,” he said. “I didn’t want my house to be washed away in my absence.”
The evacuation was not mandatory, but the current global pandemic has further complicated it. The social distancing measure has also limited access to the available shelters. One doctor said that people were hesitant to offer help for fear of the virus.
“In past disasters, by the fourth day, we normally see relief efforts like people preparing meals. This time I am yet to see something like that,” the doctor said. The country has recorded more than 20,000 cases with almost 1,000 deaths.
Thousands of army troops, police and other rescue workers have been mobilized to help in the search and rescue mission in affected areas. However, the operations have been hampered by the heavy rains still pounding, landslides, flooding and disrupted communication.
The country’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency said that the roads blocked by landslides and the rising flood waters had barred access to areas that are hard hit, especially the southwestern region of Kumamoto, where 14 people are missing.
In Kamikochi and Matsumoto, two tourist destinations in Nagana, hundreds of residents and visitors were stranded after flooding and mudslides blocked parts of the main roads connecting the two towns, which are major tourist sites.
In another incident, a pickup truck was hit by a mudslide in Kagoshima, causing it to plunge into the ocean. Fortunately, its driver, who had a head injury, was airlifted. In the town of Oita, two brothers were pulled alive after a mudslide crashed their house.
The country is prone to floods and landslides, and is in the middle of its annual rainy season. Japan is usually at a higher risk of heavy rains during early summer, whereby warm and wet air from the East China Sea flows into a seasonal rain. In 2018, more than 200 people died from heavy rains and flooding in the southwestern part of the country.