Asia

Japan floods: Rescue work continues amid deadly floods

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Media captionFloodwaters pour through a small city north of Tokyo, stranding residents and sweeping away houses

Rescue work is continuing across northeast Japan, where at least three people have died in severe flooding and many remain stranded.

Twenty-four people are still missing and at least 27 people have been injured, eight seriously.

Officials have warned of further heavy rain and the risk of mudslides, as the extreme weather moves north.

The torrential rain was caused by a severe tropical storm, which hit Japan earlier this week.

The region affected is a vast area northeast of Tokyo, stretching from Ibaraki prefecture, a short distance from the capital, right up to Miyagi prefecture, around 350km (217 miles) away.

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Image caption Many people in Joso had to wait until first light to be rescued by helicopters

In Ibaraki prefecture:

  • Hit with the most dramatic flooding so far, an area near Joso city around 50km northeast of Tokyo was devastated when the Kinugawa River burst its banks on Thursday, stranding many people on the roofs of their homes overnight.
  • Twenty-three people are still missing , including two eight-year old children, says local public broadcaster NHK.
  • Nearly 6,000 emergency service and the military personnel were brought in to help with a massive rescue effort. Overwhelmed with calls, many rescuers worked through the night.
  • Thousands of people were taken to temporary shelters, many carrying almost nothing with them.
  • Floodwaters subsided a little on Friday, but much of the area is still underwater and it is not clear when evacuees will be able to return home.

In Tochigi prefecture:

  • A 63-year-old woman was killed when her house was hit by a landslide in Kanuma city.
  • In the hot spring resort of Nikko, a man died after falling into a drain that he was trying to clear.
  • Tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate their homes.
  • More than 500mm (19 inches) of rain fell in 24 hours in places, double the amount that normally falls there throughout the whole of September, according to NHK.

In Miyagi prefecture:

  • A 48-year-old woman was killed after her car was swept away in Kurihara city.
  • The Shibui River in Osaki in Miyagi prefecture, around 350km north of Tokyo, burst its banks on Friday, inundating homes and stranding dozens of people.
  • An evacuation advisory was issued for 410,000 people in Sendai, the capital of the prefecture, after the Nanakitagawa river flooded in Izumi ward, swamping homes.

Fukushima prefecture:

  • Flooding overwhelmed the drainage pumps around the crippled Fukushima nuclear reactor on Thursday and Friday, sending tainted water into the ocean, according to a spokesman for operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO).
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Media captionA helicopter rescue team plucks a man from his rooftop as floodwaters surge below
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pets too were plucked from the top of buildings hit by floodwaters

'No time to escape'

Sixty-two-year-old Hisako Sekimoto, who was rescued by military helicopter in the early morning, said she spent a sleepless night on the upper floor of her flooded house with her husband and three cats.

"There was no time to escape. All we could do was go upstairs. It was horrifying,'' she said. "I kept praying the water wouldn't come upstairs."

The chief forecaster at the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), Takuya Deshimaru, has said the rainfall over the past few days was "unprecedented".

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed a co-ordinated and speedy emergency response

"Before anything else, we will continue to do our utmost to save lives and rescue victims, to secure the lives of people," he told reporters.

Japanese authorities have emphasised disaster prevention and response in recent years, stung by criticism at the time that their response to the 2011 tsunami and earthquake was sluggish.

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