Abe meets rain dis­as­ter sur­vivors


Ja­pan’s Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe met yes­ter­day with sur­vivors of dev­as­tat­ing rains that killed at least 204 peo­ple in flash flood­ing and land­slides, as the gov­ern­ment pledged more aid.

The toll from the record rain­fall has con­tin­ued to rise, as res­cue work­ers dig through the de­bris and find the re­mains of dozens of peo­ple re­ported miss­ing.

Top gov­ern­ment spokesman Yoshi­hide Suga said yes­ter­day that the toll was now 204 dead, with 28 peo­ple still miss­ing.

Around 73,000 res­cue work­ers in­clud­ing po­lice and troops “are work­ing as hard as they can, with the pri­or­ity on sav­ing lives”, he said.

Abe, who ear­lier this week can­celled a for­eign tour, trav­elled for a sec­ond time to ar­eas hit by the dis­as­ter.

Tele­vi­sion footage showed him vis­it­ing Seiyo in Ehime pre­fec­ture, where he vis­ited homes da­m­aged in the dis­as­ter and talked to res­i­dents try­ing to clean up.

On Fri­day morn­ing, meet­ing with the gov­ern­ment’s task­force on the dis­as­ter, Abe pledged new as­sis­tance.

The gov­ern­ment has al­ready said it will tap around $18mn in re­serve funds from this year’s bud­get, and Abe said $312 mn in tax grants would be dis­bursed early to local gov­ern­ments in af­fected ar­eas.

“I want local gov­ern­ments in dis­as­ter-hit ar­eas to do all they can for emer­gency as­sis­tance and re­con­struc­tion, with­out hes­i­tat­ing to spend,” he said.

The fi­nan­cial cost of the dis­as­ter is still be­ing cal­cu­lated, but the agri­cul­ture min­istry said Fri­day it has as­sessed losses of at least $207mn.

That fig­ure is likely to rise fur­ther as clean-up op­er­a­tions con­tinue and the scale of the dam­age be­comes clear.

It “could be the tip of the ice­berg, as we are still un­able to go and in­spect fields,” min­istry of­fi­cial Ya­suhisa Ha­manaka said.

Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Ken Saito said the cost of some veg­eta­bles had al­ready shot up be­tween 10-30 % and that the min­istry would be “closely mon­i­tor­ing” price hikes.

The size of the toll in what is now Ja­pan’s worst weath­er­re­lated dis­as­ter in over three decades has prompted ques­tions about whether au­thor­i­ties were prop­erly pre­pared and acted ef­fec­tively.

The English-lan­guage Ja­pan Times daily noted that the flood­ing that en­gulfed one district of Kurashiki in Okayama pre­fec­ture was in line with fore­casts from local au­thor­i­ties.

But “evac­u­a­tion or­ders were is­sued by the city to res­i­dents in some ar­eas of the district just min­utes be­fore the breach of the em­bank­ment took place,” the news­pa­per said in an ed­i­to­rial.

“We need to scru­ti­nise our de­fences against such dis­as­ters, iden­tify the weak points and fix them.”

Ja­pan’s Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe in­spects a flood-hit area in the city of Seiyo, Ehime pre­fec­ture, yes­ter­day.

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