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Fatal Flash Floods Hit Hiroshima, Japan

13 July 2018

In the Mami-machi area of Kurashiki city, a well-known tourist area in Okayama Prefecture, the river embankment collapsed, causing about 30% of the area to flood.

"We want to demonstrate what we have been training for as a center for summarizing and resolving problems such as food poisoning at evacuation centers, and secondary harm accompanying prolonged evacuation", said Yoko So, a doctor who leads the team of experts in public health.

"I had never seen anything like this", he said on TBS television, standing outside his restaurant in Hiroshima city while wearing a helmet.

More than 50,000 members of the self-defence force, police officers, firefighters and coastguard personnel, aided by helicopters and paddle boats, were trying to rescue people from buildings, some of them stranded on rooftops just metres above the waterline. At least 67 people were reported dead in Hiroshima, according to the national broadcaster, NHK.

But as floodwater largely subsided, more damages became visible.

Torrential rains unleashed floods and set off landslides in western Japan last week, killing at least 176 people, forcing millions to evacuate and leaving dozens missing in the country's worst weather disaster in 36 years.

In large parts of Hiroshima, water streamed through a residential area, strewn with fallen telephone poles, uprooted trees and mud.

A fresh evacuation order was issued Tuesday for residents in the town of Fuchu in Hiroshima Prefecture after the Enoki River running through the town overflowed earlier in the day after driftwood blocked its flow.

Japan's meteorological agency described the situation as one of "extreme danger" and warned of further landslides, even as the water recedes.

The rain has severed transportation in the region, with the transport ministry saying West Japan Railway Co. and other railway operators of 27 train lines suffered damage at more than 100 locations. "We are also looking after evacuees and restoring lifeline infrastructure like water and gas".

"Rescues, saving lives and evacuations are a race against time", Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said as he met a government crisis cell set up to respond to the disaster.

With emergency rain warnings lifted, the country is now turning its focus to search and rescue efforts.

However, the two cities said that it appears more time will be needed to resume the full operations of the two facilities in order to supply water to all households.

Landslide warnings were issued in more than a quarter of Japan's prefectures. The front then remained in one place for an unusually long time, the JMA said. Shinkansen bullet train services resumed on a limited schedule after they were suspended on Friday. Mitsubishi Motors Corp., which resumed operations at its Mizushima plant in Kurashiki on Monday, again halted production as workers' families were affected by the disaster. They were to decide later on Sunday on plans for the coming week.

This photo shows a submerged housing area in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, western Japan. A decision about next week would be made on Monday, it said.

Fatal Flash Floods Hit Hiroshima, Japan