Historically heavy rains Thursday and Friday in Japan led to massive floods Friday that forced over 100,000 people to evacuate their homes.
Videos of the Japan flood show helicopters over muddy waters trying to rescue people from the roofs of their homes. Official sources report at least eight people were missing and 22 reported injured to date. In some areas, swollen rivers were running out of their banks and washing away everything in their path. Moreover, at least a dozen homes have been destroyed and more than a 1000 others flooded, according to the Japanese FDMA. More than 60 landslides have also been reported nationwide.
Japanese meteorologists noted that some areas saw twice the usual September rainfall in just 48 hours after tropical storm Etau passed over Japan’s biggest island of Honshu.
Details on Japan flood
The flood in Japan caused by Etau is truly of historic proportions. The 24-hour rainfall totals at many locations were the highest ever recorded since meteorological measurements began in the 1970s, and in some cases the 24-hour totals alone were greater than the previous 72-hour rainfall records!
A television report noted that a 63-year old woman was missing in a landslide that hit her home, while a man in his 70s in the town of Joso (north of Tokyo) had been trapped when his home was flooded.
“We heard a huge sound like a thunderclap, and then the hillside came down,” another man told TV network NHK, talking about the landslide that swept away his neighbor’s home.
There has been a good bit of video footage of helicopters plucking people off roofs to safety, including one of an elderly couple clutching a pair of dogs as their home was disintegrating under them.
Of note, an additional 800,000 people had been advised to evacuate after officials issued predawn Friday warnings of “once in a half century rains” to areas east and north of Tokyo, but the evacuation order was rescinded after a short period.
A group of 12 military helicopters undertook many of the initial rescues, working together with 55 members of Japan’s Self Defense Force. Japanese government officials said the number of military personnel involved in the rescue would increase.
Emergency coordinators pointed out that rescue workers had been rushing to find people before nightfall, and that some local hospitals were getting crowded as access to others was limited.
Media reports also claim that a section of a hotel in the town of Nikko, well-known for its centuries-old shrines and temples, had collapsed, but apparently there were no serious injuries.
Rainfall totals topped 20 inches around the city of Joso, and national meteorologists were calling for at least 8 inches of additional precipitation in areas of eastern Japan, including crippled nuclear reactor site Fukushima, before the deluge is finally projected end late Friday.
Disturbing video scene
In one live video feed on Thursday, two people could be seen struggling to cling to the roof of what looked like a garage as it began to collapse beneath them and tumble into the floodwaters. The TV broadcast, which was being streamed live on houdoukyoku.jp, rapidly cut away from the disturbing scene to coverage by its in-studio anchors. Of note, what happened to the two people in the video has not been determined yet.
Japanese government acting decisively
Analysts point out that the government of Japan has worked very hard on disaster prevention since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami killed nearly 20,000 people and created an ecological disaster. Japanese government authorities do not want to receive the heavy criticism they faced last time for what was generally characterized as a slow response to the disaster.
The government of Japan has already set up an emergency center, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe informed ministers at a meting that the “unprecedented” rain had turned into a national emergency.
In his remarks after the meeting, Abe told the Japanese media, “The government will work as one to prioritize the safety of the people and do our best to prevent any further disaster.”
More on tropical storm Etau
Tropical Storm Etau that is causing the Japan flood was actually called “Typhoon No. 18” in Japan, as tropical cyclones are usually referred to by number rather than name.
Of interest, a tropical storm named “Etau” also hit Japan in 2009. The storm resulted in 28 fatalities and ended up flooding thousands of homes.