Friday, September 11, 2015

25 missing in flooded city in eastern Japan as disaster continues to unfold

At least 25 people were unaccounted for on Friday after a river burst its banks near the city of Joso in Ibaraki Prefecture as a result of torrential rains triggered by typhoon Etau sweeping eastern and northern Japan.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), which started issuing emergency warnings and evacuation recommendations as early as Wednesday for some eastern prefectures, also issued its highest warning for Sendai, the capital of Miyagi Prefecture, in the northern Tohoku region, where more than 400,000 people were advised to evacuate in advance of unprecedented torrential rains.

While in Joso, located just 50 km north of Tokyo, hundreds of people were left stranded overnight as the Kinugawa River burst its banks for the first time in 66 years over a stretch of river some 140 meters long. Those who live in the vicinity of the inundated areas had to flee to evacuation centers, while others were unable to escape from their flooded homes, rescue officials said.

Heavy rains had caused houses to be swept away with muddy floodwaters also submerging a number of homes, as police and rescue services, including helicopters, attempted to save those who had escaped to rooftops in dramatic scenes covered by local TV stations. Rescuers also tried to extricate people washed away in their cars after the river swallowed neighboring roads.

Toru Takasugi, mayor of Joso, told an early morning press conference that 22 people remained unaccounted for, but the number has since been upwardly revised to 25 people by local authorities, as the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department said it had deployed 100 special officers from its riot squad and the Tokyo Fire Department dispatched a special helicopter rescue unit to bolster the ongoing search and rescue missions, which include the Self- Defense Forces and Coast Guard.

Public broadcaster NHK reported one fatality in Tochigi after a landslide demolished three houses in Kanuma City, which left a 63- year old woman dead. A man is also in a critical condition after falling into a drainpipe.

A local official in Joso said the death toll would likely rise on Friday as rescue missions continued with more than 2,000 rescue workers.

More than 400 mm of rain in 48 hours through early Friday was logged in Miyagi, more than twice the average amount for this time of year, causing a river in Taiwa Town to burst its banks with flood waters inundating homes and trapping people inside, local officials said.

The Shibui River in the city of Osaki also burst its banks early Friday, flooding nearby residential areas and stranding at least 40 people, according to the latest official reports.

Takuya Deshimaru, director of the JMA's forecast division, told a press briefing Friday that the amount of rainfall in Miyagi was "abnormal" and described the region as facing "grave danger." He urged those in the worst-hit areas to follow evacuation advisories and go to emergency shelters on higher land.

Disaster Management Minister Eriko Yamatani promised the government will "extend maximum support" for local municipalities to secure relief supplies and establish emergency shelters, while Infrastructure Minister Akihiro Ota said that emergency work to repair the broken levees on the Kinugawa River will commence later Friday.

  Xinhua -



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