Yatsushiro | relief efforts continued Tuesday their “race against time” in the south-western part of Japan to rescue residents stranded by flooding and landslides devastating resulting in almost 50 deaths, with a dozen people still missing.
Heavy rains are also expected to persist until Thursday: the japan meteorological Agency said the level of high alert for torrential rains and landslides in large areas of the island of Kyushu, in the south-west of the archipelago.
The human toll of the violent weather experienced since Saturday morning, is still expected to rise.
A manager of Kumamoto prefecture, the hardest-hit, confirmed to AFP the death of 49 persons, while a fifth was in a state of cardio-respiratory arrest, a term used in Japan before the official report of death by a physician.
“It is a race against the clock “, a summary on Tuesday morning, Yutaro Hamasaki, head of the region interrogated by the AFP.
“We have not set a deadline for the research, but we need to really pick up the pace because time is of the essence. We will not give up “, he said.
More than 40,000 police officers, fire fighters, coast guards and members of the self-defense Forces in japan have been deployed in the field.
The rivers, coming out of their bed, have swept away bridges and turned roads into veritable lakes, forcing rescuers to move around in boats or by helicopter only.
“I haven’t been able to sleep because of the loud noise of the rain. I live here since more than 50 years ago, but I had never seen a rain too strong,””, told the local media Nobuko Murakami, a resident of 78-year-old whose home was destroyed by landslides.
Kentaro Oishi, which usually offers rafting trips for tourists to Hitoyoshi, a small town famous for its hot springs (onsen), explained to the AFP have been called in reinforcement to help the people stranded by the waters. “I have been doing rafting for 20 years, but I never would have imagined “navigate the streets of the city”.
Partitions in carton
Fourteen of the victims whose deaths have been confirmed were residents of a retirement home who failed to evacuate as the waters invaded the building.
“The whole ground floor was flooded, we have not been able to access. Some (residents, editor’s NOTE) had managed to take refuge on the first floor. I had never seen anything like it “, testified a first-aider to the public television NHK.
The evacuations were further complicated by fears related to the pandemic of sars coronavirus.
The necessity of keeping a physical distance has greatly decreased the capacity of emergency accommodation, while the recommendations of evacuation (not mandatory) involving hundreds of thousands of people.
Japan has been relatively unaffected so far by the global pandemic, with less than 1,000 deaths for nearly 20 000 cases of contamination in the country since the beginning of the health crisis. Most new infections are currently listed as Tokyo.
In the city of Yatsushiro, the authorities have transformed a gymnasium into a shelter, where families were separated by partitions in the carton to prevent the spread of the virus, found a photographer from AFP.
According to local media reports, some of the inhabitants preferred to sleep in their cars, for fear of being infected in a shelter.
For the local economy already hard hit by the collapse of tourism because of the pandemic, natural disaster falls at the worst time.
“It’s a beautiful place was turned upside down overnight “, said to AFP Yuji Hashimoto, head of the office of tourism of Yatsushiro, a town also famous for its onsen.
“The damage is beyond comprehension, that we fell over in a way completely unexpected. It is a double penalty, so that our city was already suffering from the impact of the sars coronavirus “, he lamented.
The rainy season is in full swing in the japanese archipelago at this time, a period of high risk in terms of flooding, mudslides and landslides.
Climate change also plays a role because a warmer atmosphere holds more water, increasing the risk and intensity of extreme rainfall.