Ja­pan PM vis­its flood dis­as­ter zone, prom­ises help

Global Times US Edition - - WORLD -

Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe vis­ited flood-stricken parts of Ja­pan on Wed­nes­day as the death toll from the worst weather dis­as­ter in 36 years reached 176 and health con­cerns rose amid scorch­ing heat and the threat of new floods.

Tor­ren­tial rain caused floods and trig­gered land­slides in western Ja­pan last week, bring­ing death and de­struc­tion to neigh­bor­hoods built decades ago near steep moun­tain slopes.

At least 176 peo­ple were killed, the gov­ern­ment said, with dozens miss­ing in Ja­pan’s worst weather dis­as­ter since 1982.

In Ku­mano, a moun­tain­side com­mu­nity in Hiroshima pre­fec­ture that was hit by a land­slide last week, Ken Kirioka anx­iously watched res­cuers toil­ing through mud, sand and smashed houses to find the miss­ing, in­clud­ing his 76-yearold fa­ther, Kat­suharu.

“He is old and has a heart con­di­tion. I pre­pared my­self for the worst when I heard about the land­slide on Fri­day night,” he said, point­ing at a pile of mud and rub­ble where he said his fa­ther was buried.

“He is an old-fash­ioned fa­ther who is hard-headed and does not talk much,” Kirioka said, ad­ding he would stay un­til his fa­ther was found. “It would be too bad for him if a fam­ily mem­ber were not around.”

Res­cuers work­ing un­der a scorch­ing sun and op­pres­sive hu­mid­ity combed through heaps of wood and other de­bris and thickly caked mud in a search for bod­ies, helped by snif­fer dogs. In some cases only the foun­da­tion of homes re­mained as they cut through de­bris with chain saws.

With tem­per­a­tures of 33 C or higher in the dev­as­tated ar­eas in Okayama and Hiroshima pre­fec­tures, at­ten­tion turned to pre­vent­ing heat-stroke among res­cue work­ers and in evac­u­a­tion cen­ters where thou­sands of peo­ple have sought shel­ter.

Peo­ple sat on thin mats on a gym­na­sium floor in one cen­ter, plas­tic bags of be­long­ings piled around them and bed­ding folded off to the side. Portable fans turned slowly as chil­dren cried.

Abe, who can­celled an over­seas trip to deal with the dis­as­ter, was crit­i­cized af­ter a pho­to­graph posted on Twitter showed Abe and his de­fence min­is­ter at a party with law­mak­ers just as the rains in­ten­si­fied.

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