Japan Evacuates Tens of Thousands over Record Floods

This image made from a CCTV video of Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Kyushu Regional Development Bureau, shows submerged area near the Takeo river in Takeo city, Saga prefecture following the heavy rain, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. Torrential rain continued to trigger floods Saturday in wide areas of …
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Kyushu Regional Development Bureau via AP

Severe storms caused floods and landslides across southwestern Japan this week, killing at least one person as of Friday and forcing tens of thousands to evacuate, Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported.

Authorities on the southwestern island of Kyushu confirmed Friday that a woman in her fifties died after a mudslide damaged her home in the city of Unzen. The victim’s husband and adult daughter remain missing. The landslide in Unzen, located within Nagasaki prefecture, also swallowed a second residence and seriously injured that home’s owner:

Local government officials ordered tens of thousands of people in Nagasaki prefecture and other parts of Kyushu island to evacuate Thursday to avoid the threat of torrential floods and mudslides.

The cities of Unzen and Shimabara, both located within Nagasaki prefecture, received record rainfall from August 11-August 13. The Japan Meteorological Agency observed “over 800 millimeters [31.5 inches]” of rain at Mt. Unzen, located halfway between Unzen and Shimabara, during the 48-hour period.

“The amount is more than twice the monthly precipitation for August in usual years,” the agency said.

The Japan Meteorological Agency issued “level-five” rain alert levels in some parts of Kyushu island and also in the city of Hiroshima, located on the neighboring island of Honshu. The “level-five” alert is the weather agency’s highest on a scale of one to five. It includes an accompanying order to evacuate the area. Three municipalities of Hiroshima heeded the level-five warning Thursday, urging residents “to take action to secure their safety, including moving to higher floors in buildings,” according to the Mainichi.

Heavy rain caused the Gono River, which flows through Hiroshima, to “overflow in multiple locations, and local authorities ordered over 5,800 residents in downstream areas in Shimane Prefecture to evacuate,” the newspaper reported.

Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide held an emergency meeting in Tokyo on August 13 with members of his Cabinet to formulate a federal-level response to the regional weather crisis. He called on Japanese citizens in affected areas to “evacuate immediately.” Suga issued a statement on Friday warning that “torrential rains could continue in regions around western Japan” through at least Saturday.

The Japan Meteorological Agency issued a similar statement on Friday predicting “heavy rain will also strike wide areas from western to northern Japan through August 14, with western Japan, in particular, receiving torrential rainfall and thunderstorms.”

“The rain will continue beyond August 15, possibly pushing up the total rainfall even further,” the agency added.

The meteorological authority encouraged people residing in the affected regions to “be on their guard against landslides, inundations in low-lying areas, and swollen and flooded rivers” and anticipate “strong gusts including tornadoes, as well as lightning,” the Mainichi relayed.

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