For more than a week, Japan has been hit by floods caused by torrential rain, causing widespread evacuations and the death of at least 58 people on Wednesday. Many people are still missing.
Tens of thousands of soldiers, police and other rescuers have been mobilized to make their way through mud and debris in the hardest hit cities along the Kuma River – known as the “river that makes rage ”because it is joined by another river just upstream. and often floods – on the southernmost main island of Japan, Kyushu.
Additional floods and landslides were expected on Wednesday as some of the heaviest rains the country has seen in decades have shifted to central Japan. Damaged rivers, mudslides and damaged houses and roads have been reported in two central mountainous prefectures, the authorities having issued emergency warnings.
NHK television footage showed swollen water in the Hida River tearing into the embankment and destroying a highway.
In southern Japan, the death toll continued to rise, with rescuers carrying out more search and rescue operations. Authorities lowered the rain warnings for the region but said the threat of further flooding and mudslides persisted.
The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said that 49 victims were from towns bordering Kumamoto Prefecture. Another victim, an 80-year-old woman, was found inside her flooded house in another prefecture.
An older woman told the public broadcaster NHK that she had started walking on the road to evacuate, but that the floodwaters had risen quickly to her neck.
Another woman said, “I was almost carried away and had to grab a utility pole.”
The soldiers used boats to rescue residents as the floodwaters rushed down the streets. Images from Fukuoka Prefecture show soldiers wading through knee-deep water pulling a boat carrying a mother, her 2-month-old baby and two other residents.
” Good work! A soldier could be heard to say, according to the Associated Press, while he was holding the baby against his chest while the mother got out of the boat. Several children wearing orange life jackets on their wet T-shirts arrived on another boat.
In the village of Kuma, in the Kumamoto prefecture, dozens of residents took refuge under a covered structure in a park without walls or floors. The electricity and communications from the village office were cut.
Of the victims, 14 resided in a nursing home near the Kuma River. When her embankment collapsed, water gushed into the nursing home.
More than three million residents have been asked to evacuate through Kyushu, the third largest island in Japan, but it is not known how many have done so.
In Gero, a man washed the mud at the entrance to his house by the river despite the evacuation notice. “I was told to flee and my neighbors all left, but I stayed,” he said, according to the AP. “I didn’t want my house to be taken away in my absence. “
The Ministry of Lands has recorded at least 71 landslides in 12 prefectures, according to Kyodo News. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government would double the relief and relief staff to 80,000 people.
Cabinet Secretary-in-Chief Yoshihide Suga urged residents to be cautious: “Disasters can happen even with little rain where the soil is detached from previous rains.”
According to Reuters, some companies in the region have temporarily suspended their activities, the car manufacturers Toyota and Mazda and the conglomerate of electronics Panasonic having interrupted their operations Monday in certain factories because of heavy rains.
Disasters are common during the rainy season in Japan. In July 2018, more than 200 people, about half of them in the Hiroshima region, died from heavy rains and floods in southwest Japan.
The country is also likely to be affected by typhoons: a hundred people died last October when typhoon Hagibis, the biggest storm to have hit Japan in decades, hit the northeast of the country. Climatologists say the problem of heavy storms has been exacerbated by global warming.