Cape Times

Japan battling flood chaos

- Issei Kato Reuters

JOSO, Japan: Unpreceden­ted rain in Japan unleashed heavy floods yesterday that tore houses from their foundation­s, uprooted trees and forced more than 100 000 people from their homes.

Helicopter­s hovering over swirling, muddy waters rescued many people from the roofs of their homes. Seven people were missing and at least 17 were injured, one seriously. Some areas received double the usual September rainfall in 48 hours after tropical storm Etau swept across Japan’s main island of Honshu. In some places, rainswolle­n rivers burst their banks.

A 63-year-old woman was missing in a landslide that hit her home, while a man in his seventies in the town of Joso was feared trapped when water engulfed his home, NHK national television said.

“We heard a huge sound like a thundercla­p, and then the hillside came down,” a man told NHK, referring to the landslide that swept away his neighbour.

Television footage of helicopter­s winching people to safety included an elderly couple clutching a pair of struggling dogs as the flood tore away pieces of their home.

A further 800 000 people were at one point advised to evacuate after officials issued predawn warnings of “once in a half century rains” to 5 million people in areas east and north of Tokyo.

Japan has put heavy emphasis on disaster prevention since a 2011 earthquake and tsunami killed nearly 20 000 people and authoritie­s are keen to avoid the kind of criticism they faced then, for what was seen as a sluggish response.

The government set up an emergency centre and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a meeting of ministers that the “unpreceden­ted” rain created an emergency.

“The government will work as one to prioritise the safety of the people and do our best to prevent any further disaster,” Abe said.

Television footage showed people in Joso waving towels while waiting for help on the upper floors of homes engulfed in floods after the overflowin­g Kinugawa River swept through the area.

“I thought I was safe because I live on a hill, but pretty soon the water came up and everything was washed away,” a barefoot man told Fuji TV after his helicopter rescue.

Up to 12 military helicop-

had ters took part in the rescue, along with an initial 55 members of Japan’s military, the Self Defence Force. Officials said their number would rise.

Rescue workers rushed to find people before nightfall.

Part of a hotel in the town of Nikko, famed for its shrines and temples, had collapsed, Kyodo news agency said, but there were no reports of injuries. Rainfall reached 500mm around Joso, NHK said, with weather officials expecting at least 200mm more in parts of eastern Japan, including Fukushima, the site of the nuclear reactor crippled in 2011, before the downpour stops today.

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