The Yomiuri ShimbunA number of disasters have occurred over a wide area at the same time. The central government as well as local governments in disaster-stricken areas must ascertain the state of damage and swiftly restore the foundations of their lives.
Record-breaking torrential rains have struck parts of western Japan. There was a series of floods along rivers as well as landslides.
Local houses were swallowed by muddy water, earth and sand. The death toll has already exceeded 100. A large number of people are still missing.
The Japan Meteorological Agency had earlier issued an emergency heavy rain warning for various places, urging them to take maximum precautions. The local governments issued evacuation advisories and directives as well. The number of people subject to these warnings exceeded 8 million at one point. Nevertheless, the situation worsened more rapidly than anticipated, thereby expanding the extent of the damage.
How far do the damaged areas extend? The full extent is still unknown. Some residents were swept away along rivers. More than a few people appear to have been trapped in houses destroyed by earth and sand.
In the Mabicho area of Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, riverbanks collapsed, leaving the area stricken by large-scale floods. Many residents climbed up on the roofs of their houses, where they waited to be rescued.
“[We] have been unable to determine the number of people who are stranded inside submerged buildings,” Kurashiki Mayor Kaori Ito said. This shows the fierceness of the latest torrential rains.
The search for missing people is experiencing great difficulties. The central and local governments should do their utmost to carry out rescue and relief operations.
In the latest disaster, bridges have collapsed and roads have been made impassable. Infrastructure for water, gas, electricity and other supplies has also been suspended. Some areas have been hit by extreme heat, now that the rain has stopped there.
Push-type support vital
There are concerns about a deterioration in sanitary conditions. Care must be taken to prevent disaster victims and relief workers from suffering heatstroke.
The government has decided to apply the Disaster Relief Law, which is aimed at supporting swift relief activities, and the Law on Support for Reconstructing Livelihoods of Disaster Victims, which seeks to help stricken people rebuild their homes. It is important to facilitate an environment in which disaster victims can feel relieved.
A sufficient amount of drinking water, food, diapers and other daily necessities must be delivered to victims. It is indispensable to pay due consideration to local governments in the stricken areas, to ensure that no further burden is placed on them amid their struggle to carry out their duties.
The central government should promptly deliver goods that are presumed to be needed by disaster victims, even if it has not received requests for such assistance, in what is called “push-type support,” a scheme it first adopted in the wake of the Kumamoto Earthquake of 2016. This type of support should be promoted in the latest disaster, too.
The ground is generally weak in Hiroshima Prefecture, and there were landslides amid previous heavy rains. Landslides occurred there again during the latest heavy rains. To what extent have the lessons of the past been utilized? It is necessary to constantly review disaster responses.
The full-blown typhoon season will soon arrive. Each resident is advised to understand the degree of danger related to their place of residence, using flood damage hazard maps drawn up for their locations. And, each is advised to evacuate well in advance even though a warning may just end in an alarm. It is important to reconfirm what people should do to safeguard their lives.