Japan floods: More than 100000 flee after torrential rain unleashes flooding … – ABC Online

Updated

September 10, 2015 23:19:41

Powerful floods have ripped through parts of Japan in the wake of unprecedented rains, tearing houses from their foundations, uprooting trees and forcing more than 100,000 people from their homes.

The rains came in the wake of Typhoon Etau, which smashed through Japan on Wednesday, bringing strong winds and causing travel chaos.

Military helicopters plucked stranded residents from roofs after waters surged over a wide area when the raging Kinugawa river burst its banks in Joso, north of Tokyo, swamping the city of 65,000 people.

Dramatic aerial footage showed whole houses being swept away by raging torrents, in scenes eerily reminiscent of the devastating tsunami that crushed Japan’s north-east coast in 2011.

One man was seen clutching a concrete post as waters swirled around him.

No one has so far been confirmed dead, but there are reports of people missing, including in landslides that buried buildings.

“We heard a huge sound like a thunderclap, and then the hillside came down,” a man told NHK, referring to a landslide that swept away his neighbour.

Television pictures from Joso, a small city north of Tokyo, showed desperate residents waving towels as they stood on balconies trying to summon assistance.

“I thought I was safe because I live on a hill, but pretty soon the water came up and everything was washed away,” a barefoot man told Fuji TV after his helicopter rescue.

More than 100,000 people were ordered to leave their homes after a huge swathe of north-east Japan was battered by torrential rain.

“I’ve never seen the Kinugawa river burst its banks,” 63-year-old Joso resident Akira Yoshihara told AFP.

“My house is on higher ground but I’m worried the water may reach it tonight.”

By early evening, police, firefighters and troops had rescued at least 260 people from houses in Joso City and surrounding areas, Jiji Press news agency said.

But an estimated 200 people were still trapped in their homes or other buildings, including a day care centre and a seniors’ home.

Joso is about 60 kilometres outside Tokyo, which has also been hit by localised flooding.

The government set up an emergency centre, and prime minister Shinzo Abe told a meeting of ministers that the “unprecedented” rain had created an emergency.

“The government will work as one to prioritise the safety of the people and do our best to prevent any further disaster,” Mr Abe told reporters.

Up to 12 military helicopters took part in the rescue along with an initial 55 members of Japan’s military, the Self Defence Force. Officials said their number would rise.

Fukushima tainted water flows into ocean

Rainfall reached 600 millimetres 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.

The torrential downpour has exacerbated a contaminated water problem at the Fukushima nuclear plant as it overwhelmed the site’s drainage pumps, sending hundreds of tonnes of contaminated water flowing into the ocean, a spokesman for operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) said.

TEPCO is storing huge volumes of water used to cool reactors that were sent into meltdown when a tsunami hit Japan in 2011.

Japan has put heavy emphasis on disaster prevention since the earthquake and tsunami disaster that left nearly 20,000 dead.

It is eager to avoid the criticism faced by previous governments for what was seen as a sluggish response.

Part of a hotel in the town of Nikko, famed for its shrines and temples, had collapsed, the Kyodo news agency said, but there were no reports of injuries.

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

More than a dozen people were injured, including a 77-year-old woman who broke her leg after falling in strong winds, local reports said.

Japan is no stranger to natural disasters, and is frequently rocked by typhoons.

However, nothing in recent memory has compared with the tsunami of 2011, when more than 18,000 people were killed.

AFP/Reuters

Topics:

floods,

disasters-and-accidents,

landslide,

rainfall,

storm-disaster,

japan,

asia

First posted

September 10, 2015 16:32:21

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