Joso, a town of about 65,000 people located in northeastern Japan, was swamped by a wall of water after the Kinugawa River burst its banks on Thursday, forcing around 100,000 people to evacuate. The river’s banks collapse following the torrential rain. At least eight people are still missing and 100 need rescuing.
TV footage from NHK showed Japanese military personnel rescuing residents from balconies and rooftops, as the deluge threatened to demolish the buildings from beneath them. In one of the most dramatic footage, a rescuer lowered himself from a military helicopter for over 20 minutes in order to rescue a stranded group of people as flood surrounded their home.
Entire homes and cars were swept away into the cascade as the Kinugawa River banks collapsed, after two days of heavy rainfall.
Forecaster Takuya Deshimaru told in the emergency press conference, “This is a downpour on a scale that we have not experienced before”. He added, “Grave danger could be imminent.”
The Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who had set up an emergency response headquarters following the floods, told reporters: “The government will stand united and do its best to deal with the disaster, by putting its highest priority on people’s lives”
This is the eighteenth storm that hit Japan this year. On average, Japan gets hit by 20 to 30 such storms every year. The Kinugawa River collapsing its banks caught experts by surprise, especially because of the areas it has affected. A constant and ever-growing danger of floods and landslides in recent years raises concerns. Although the country’s rescuing team is praised for its work, due the growing scope of floods and landslides that hit the country every year, it may need more preparations in the future.
The heavy rain has also called additional leaks of radioactive water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plan which was hit in 2011’s tsunami and earthquake. The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), said that the storm has overwhelmed the site’s drainage pumps, sending hundreds of tonnes of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean. Huge volumes of water, used to cool the plant’s reactors, are being stored at the site.
Japan’s meteorologists issued special flood warnings to the northern cities of Tochigi and Ibaraki, urging residents to watch out for more flooding and landslides. They also warned that heavy rain would continue in the northeast, including Fukushima prefecture, until early Friday morning.