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Service to cue local officials of need for flood advisory

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe cities, towns and villages of Japan are working together to launch a service using weather information provided by a private company to help municipal governments decide whether to issue an evacuation advisory when a flood occurs.

The Japan Association of City Mayors along with the National Association of Towns and Villages will institute the service this spring using a system developed by major damage insurance firm Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance Inc. and weather information company Weathernews Inc.

The new service will likely help municipal governments swiftly lead their local residents to safety when a large-scale flood is imminent.

When a torrential downpour or a flood occurs, the new service will send weather data provided by Weathernews, together with selected word-of-mouth information provided by registered residents, to smartphones used by heads of municipal governments and local officials in charge of disaster prevention.

Inundated roadways are said to occur when precipitation reaches 50 millimeters per hour, and sediment disaster is feared when it reaches 200 millimeters in 24 hours. However, conditions can vary according to the topography of the area. The new service will provide an area-by-area precipitation forecast more detailed than that of the Japan Meteorological Agency and issue a warning when rainfall reaches a predetermined level of danger.

In recent years, powerful typhoons have time and again made landfall without losing momentum or have taken unexpected courses causing various disasters including floods across the country. In August last year, a powerful typhoon hit northeastern Japan causing great damage in areas including Hokkaido and the Tohoku region. In the town of Iwaizumi, Iwate Prefecture, residents of a nursing home for the elderly could not escape in time and were killed in a flood.

Sediment disasters struck Izu Oshima island, part of Tokyo, in October 2013, and Hiroshima Prefecture in August 2014. In both cases, it was said that local governments’ delay in issuing evacuation advisories aggravated the harm. The central government is now calling on local governments to swiftly provide easy-to-understand information to their residents.

However, in reality, local government officials are often too busy trying to figure out where the disaster has hit and end up reaching appropriate decisions too late.

Shozo Nagata, associate professor of Kansai University who specializes in disaster management administration, says more than a few municipal governments lack the expertise and knowledge to face natural disasters.

“There are not enough officials specializing in civil engineering out there, so not a few local governments are left without the know-how to deal with disasters,” he said.

With regard to the new service, Nagata said, “Floods can spread in an instant, so having more material on which to base your judgment when issuing an evacuation advisory is very significant.”Speech

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