Japan — Flood Victims Stay in Cars Over COVID-19

  • "We are helping one another by staying in our cars," one nonprofit said.
  • The option has brought a boost to the auto supply shops.
  • The current global coronavirus pandemic has further complicated the situation.

A majority of flood victims in Japan have opted to shelter in their own cars for fear of the coronavirus pandemic. Evacuees have flocked the shelters, but are forced to stay in the parking lots. “Shelters should be reserved for those with no other alternatives,” one nonprofit organization said.

Record-breaking heavy rain hit the prefectures of Kumamoto and Kagoshima in the southern Japanese island of Kyushu on 4 July 2020 in the middle of the East Asian rainy season. As a result of flooding and landslides, 66 people were confirmed dead and approximately one dozen are missing.

“We are helping one another by staying in our cars,” they added. The option has brought a boost to the auto supply shops that are tasked with fitting relevant accessories including stretchy cloth rack that can be fixed at the back seat.

The current global coronavirus pandemic has further complicated the situation. 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.

Heavy rains have continued to pound the southern part of the country. The floods have triggered landslides that have destroyed homes and made roads impassable. 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 JMA has issued evacuation advisories in Nangasaki and some areas in Kyushu region. More stranded residents have been evacuated as the search and rescue operations continued. The death toll due to deadly floods and landslides in Japan has risen to 66. The Fire and Disaster Management Agency stated that sixteen people were still missing.

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 East Asian rainy season, commonly called the plum rain, is caused by precipitation along a persistent stationary front known as the Meiyu front for nearly two months during the late spring and early summer between China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan. The wet season ends during the summer when the subtropical ridge becomes strong enough to push this front north of the region.

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 9 people are still missing.

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.

The damage has now spread to central Japan’s scenic mountain villages, which are known for their hiking and hot springs. More stranded residents have been evacuated as the search and rescue operations continued.

In Yufuin town, an innkeeper was found dead and three of his family members have been reported 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.

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.

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Juliet Norah

I am a freelance journalist is passionate about news. I derive pleasure in informing people about the happenings in the world

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