World

Japanese city flooded as raging river breaks its banks

Japan evacuated about 100,000 people from their homes on Thursday (Sept 10), after rare torrential rains unleashed floods that left at least two people missing and stranded many more when rivers surged over their banks.

A further 800,000 people across eastern Japan have been advised to evacuate after officials issued pre-dawn warnings of unusually harsh rainfall to 5 million people.

Television broadcast pictures of helicopters plucking individuals from rooftops, while one elderly couple sat on a roof clutching a pair of dogs.

Some areas received double the usual September rainfall within 48 hours after tropical storm Etau swept across the central part of Japan’s main island of Honshu, reported Reuters.

A 63-year old woman was missing after a landslide hit her home, while a man in his 70s in the town of Joso, about 56km north of Tokyo, was feared trapped in his home when floods swept it away, NHK national television said.


A resident is rescued by a rescue helicopter at a residential area flooded by the Kinugawa river, caused by typhoon Etau, in Joso, Ibaraki prefecture. PHOTO: REUTERS

The huge rains also exacerbated a contaminated water problem at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant as it overwhelmed the site’s drainage pumps, sending radiation-tainted water into the ocean.

“This is a scale of downpour that we have not experienced before,” forecaster Takuya Deshimaru told an emergency press conference.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government was on high alert.

“The government will stand united and do its best to deal with the disaster... by putting its highest priority on people’s lives,” he told reporters.

In Joso, houses and vehicles were washed away along with some power lines, as military personnel headed to the area to help with the rescue mission.

A solitary man clutched onto a concrete power pole, unable to move as raging water surged by him. He was later rescued.

 

Nearby, an emergency official was suspended from a helicopter to rescue a person from a submerged home.

Desperate residents waved towels at rescuers as they stood on second-floor balconies waiting for help.

“Please continue to ask for help. Please do not give up hope,” an NHK broadcaster said in an apparent message to helpless residents.

The city is about 60km outside the capital Tokyo, which has also been hit by flooding.

Buried by landslides

Joso is in Ibaraki prefecture, where the Japan Meteorological Agency had issued special warnings urging vigilance against mudslides and flooding. It had similar warnings for Tochigi prefecture.


Joso City. PHOTO: GOOGLE MAPS
 

“The prefecture has requested assistance from the Self-Defence Forces and police helicopters from the region. We are receiving their help,” a prefectural official told AFP.

“We do not have updated information about the damage, but we know it is extensive and affected wide areas,” he added.

Tochigi authorities ordered more than 90,000 residents to evacuate, while another 116,000 were advised to leave their homes, public broadcaster NHK said. In Ibaraki , at least 20,000 were ordered to evacuate for fears of floodings.


A view of flood waters from the Kinugawa river (R) caused by typhoon Etau at a residential area in Joso, Ibaraki prefecture. PHOTO: REUTERS
 

In Tochigi’s Kanuma city, a local official said rescuers were searching for a missing person believed to be buried in mudslides.

“We don’t know details of this person yet,” he said.

NHK reported it was a woman in her 60s buried after mudslides destroyed houses. Her husband was rescued soon after, it added.

Two men were missing in Nikko, a city known for its historical shrines, after possibly being buried by landslides, public broadcaster NHK said.

Two other men in Nikko were rescued after being swept into a drainage gutter, but one was unconscious, the broadcaster said.

Etau, which smashed into Japan on Wednesday, moved out into the Sea of Japan (East Sea) by the end of the day, but a wall of rain continued to lash the country.

Rainfall reached 600mm in the area around Joso, 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 on Friday.

Source: AFP, Reuters Google Maps, Twitter

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