Support for flood evacuees grows into massive effort

The Yomiuri ShimbunSearch and rescue teams from all over the country continued operations on Tuesday in areas affected by the heavy rain in western Japan. Full-fledged relief aid for evacuees also began.

As of noon Tuesday, 131 people had died in 12 prefectures and 59 people were missing in seven prefectures, according to information collected by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

The so-called 72-hour mark following the outbreak of the disaster, after which the survival rate of those waiting to be rescued is said to fall sharply, has passed. In a time-sensitive situation, scorching heat in western Japan on Tuesday has made operations grueling.

A total of 75,000 personnel and 79 helicopters dispatched from police, fire authorities, the Self-Defense Forces and the Japan Coast Guard engaged in search and rescue operations.

According to data compiled by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry as of 5 a.m. Tuesday, the rainfall caused 346 landslides in 29 prefectures and more than 100 cases of river flooding in 20 prefectures, with floodwaters covering about 2,940 hectares.

More than 10,000 people are staying at evacuation centers in 15 prefectures, where local governments must urgently provide support for evacuees who are expected to be forced to stay there for an extended time.

In Hiroshima, Okayama and Ehime prefectures, the Japan Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT), which comprises doctors, nurses and other staff members dispatched from outside those prefectures, began its activities, visiting evacuation centers to see if there were any evacuees complaining about health problems.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato said at a press conference after a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that the government would start dispatching the Disaster Health Emergency Assistance Team (DHEAT) from Thursday at the request of the Okayama prefectural government to support hygiene control at evacuation centers.

Temperatures rose in disaster-affected areas from dawn on Tuesday, forcing rescue teams to battle with the heat on top of rescue operations and debris removal.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, daily high temperatures will exceed 30 C for at least a week in western Japan. The agency is calling for caution regarding heatstroke, urging evacuees to intake sufficient water and salt regardless of whether they are indoors or outdoors. It also urged them to keep their curtains shut to keep out sunshine and use air conditioners and electric fans as much as possible.

On Tuesday, in the town of Fuchu, Hiroshima Prefecture, the Enokigawa river that runs through the town flooded as earth and sand stemmed the river’s flow, and about 25,000 people were ordered to evacuate.

Govt pays ¥2 bil. for relief aid

The government decided on Tuesday to spend about ¥2 billion for emergency relief aid to afflicted areas from the reserve fund in the initial budget for fiscal 2018. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit disaster-affected areas in Okayama Prefecture on Wednesday.

At a meeting of the government’s Major Disaster Management Headquarters at the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday morning, Abe stressed that the government “will take fiscal steps to further reinforce the government-led ‘push-type support.’”

Under the push-type support, the central government will use the reserve fund and transport such relief supplies as water, food, air conditioners and temporary toilets to evacuation centers without waiting for requests from disaster-affected areas.

To ensure smooth transportation of relief goods, the government also decided to treat trucks that usually deliver products to convenience stores and others as emergency vehicles.

After the meeting, Abe attended the first meeting of the goverment’s Team in Charge of Assisting the Lives of Disaster Victims, saying, “I’ll visit sites afflicted by the disaster in series and ask for requests from evacuees and local governments.”

The team is led by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita and comprises vice minister level officials from ministries and agencies concerned.

Finance Minister Taro Aso said at a press conference after the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that the government has available about ¥420 billion in total — ¥350 billion of the reserve fund and about ¥70 billion in public works projects that it can spend on disaster reconstruction in the initial budget for fiscal 2018 — as a financial measure to cope with the disaster from the record rainfall in western Japan for the present.

Aso also said the ministry would count on a supplementary budget or other measures if the reserve fund becomes insufficient.Speech

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