At Least 122 Dead, 27 Missing in Japan’s Floods and Landslides

Soldiers push a boat as they prepare to search for survivors following heavy flooding, on July 8, 2018 in Kurashiki near Okayama, Japan. (Credit: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Soldiers push a boat as they prepare to search for survivors following heavy flooding, on July 8, 2018 in Kurashiki near Okayama, Japan. (Credit: Carl Court/Getty Images)

The rain may have stopped in Japan, but the country is facing a long recovery process after floods and landslides killed at least 122 people in the southwest, officials said Tuesday.

At least 27 people are missing, said the nation’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

With emergency rain warnings lifted, the country is turning its focus to search and rescue efforts. Police, fire departments and the military are scouring affected areas for those unaccounted for.

“We will unite and move swiftly to deliver those necessities to the disaster victims by coordinating closely with local government,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a meeting with the disaster response task force, also noting “the future need” to improve evacuation centers and temporary housing.

Residents began the cleanup, wading through flooded houses and streets.

Thousands of houses have been damaged, and even the ones that stand intact have been impacted. Nearly 17,000 households are still without power, and phone lines are down across multiple prefectures.

Further complicating repair efforts is the fact that many railroads and highways are closed, too flooded to operate, placing many affected areas out of reach.

Homes destroyed

Rains began late last week and intensified over the weekend. Rivers overflowed, landslides crushed buildings, and cars were swept away by floodwater.

“The record rainfalls in various parts of the country have caused rivers to burst their banks, and triggered large-scale floods and landslides in several areas,” Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Sunday.

Two million people were forced to flee their homes, advised or ordered by the government to evacuate. Some, unable to leave, took shelter on their rooftops as flash floods swallowed entire streets.

In Kurashiki near Okayama, soldiers were deployed to carry elderly residents from their homes into waiting boats.

Kazuhiko Ono, who owns a secondhand book store in Hiroshima city, was unable to return to his home and store when the rains first arrived. His wife and children took shelter in the second floor of their home, while the store filled up with water.

“I’m so sad I lost many books,” Ono said. “I can never find them anymore.”

Hiroshima and Ehime prefectures were some of the hardest hit, though nine others were also heavily impacted.

Images from Kuyashiki, a city on the southern coast of Okayama Prefecture, show cars overturned or buried in mud.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported about 364 millimeters (14.3 inches) of rain fell between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. Sunday in the city of Uwajima — approximately 1.5 times the average monthly rainfall for July. In Sukumo City in Kochi prefecture, 263 millimeters (10.3 inches) of rain fell in two hours, NHK said.

Suga warned that although the rain warnings had been lifted, residents should still watch for landslides. Those participating in cleanup efforts should be careful to avoid heat-related issues, because the next few days are expected to be hot and clear.

Prime Minister Abe announced on Monday that he has canceled a planned trip to Belgium, France, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to concentrate on the disaster relief effort.

About 73,000 personnel have been mobilized for search-and-rescue efforts.