Tuesday 16 July 2019

Death toll rises to 110 in Japan as rain threatens further landslides

Police arrive to clear debris scattered on a street in a flood-hit area in Kumano, Hiroshima prefecture. Photo: AFP/Getty Images*
Police arrive to clear debris scattered on a street in a flood-hit area in Kumano, Hiroshima prefecture. Photo: AFP/Getty Images*

Danielle Demetriou

The death toll from Japan's worst flooding disaster in 35 years has risen to more than 110, with dozens still missing.

Record rainfall deluged central and south western Japan last week, causing widespread flooding, landslides, burst riverbanks and collapsed buildings.

While the rain eased off in some areas yesterday, swathes of Japan remained underwater and flood warnings were still in effect in the worst hit areas, including Okayama Prefecture.

Officials warned of sudden showers, thunderstorms and the danger of more landslides in areas where steep mountainsides were already saturated from last week's deluge.

Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, cancelled a trip scheduled to start today to Belgium, France, Saudi Arabia and Egypt in order to focus on the disaster.

Mr Abe boosted the number of rescue workers helping with the crisis to 73,000.

Several million people across 19 prefectures were advised to leave their homes at various points over the weekend, with tens of thousands still seeking refuge in evacuation centres.

The number of casualties was expected to rise further as rescue operations continue, with 61 people missing and many others thought to be stranded in their homes due to flooding or damaged infrastructure.

In some areas, the flood waters began to recede, revealing the full extent of the devastation, with residents faced with brown mud, collapsed homes and overturned cars.

"I've never experienced any-thing like this and I've lived for more than 70 years," said Hitoko Asano (71) while cleaning her home in the badly-hit Mabi district of Kurashiki city in Okayama Prefecture.

"The washing machine, refrigerator, microwave, toaster, PC - they're all destroyed."

Another area devastated by the rains was Hiroshima Prefecture, where 170 patients and staff from one hospital were evacuated via helicopters and rafts through flooded streets.

Yumeko Matsui (23), a nursery school worker whose home near Hiroshima has been without water since Saturday, said: "We cannot take baths, the toilet doesn't work and our food stockpile is running low.

"Bottled water and bottled tea are all gone from convenience stores and other shops."

Car manufacturer Mazda was forced to close its head office in Hiroshima, while Panasonic, the electronics maker, suspended operations at one plant.

The economic impact was being assessed.

"I'm worried there could be a significant impact on production, consumption and tourism," Toshiro Miyashita, Bank of Japan's Fukuoka branch manager, told a news conference. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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