Jiji PressATSUMA, Hokkaido (Jiji Press) — Not only humans but rescue dogs played critical roles in the operations to search for people buried under massive landslides triggered by a recent giant earthquake that struck Hokkaido.
Mixed-breed Yumenosuke was among the dogs that joined the search and rescue mission by Self-Defense Forces troops, police officers and firefighters in the Hokkaido town of Atsuma, which was hit hardest by the 6.7-magnitude temblor on Thursday last week.
About eight years ago, the male dog, then three to four months old, was rescued by nonprofit organization Peace Winds Japan when he was about to be euthanized at a facility in Hiroshima Prefecture.
Yumenosuke made his debut as a disaster rescue dog after being trained by PWJ, which is based in the Hiroshima town of Jinsekikogen.
“Because he was an abandoned dog, Yumenosuke is very shy,” Kaori Nishi, his 23-year-old handler, says.
After continuing extensive training, Yumenosuke found a missing person during search operations in an area hit by a mudslide caused by heavy rain in the city of Hiroshima in August 2014.
He also took part in a search and rescue mission in Kumamoto Prefecture after it was hit by a string of powerful earthquakes in April 2016.
Rescue dog teams from four private-sector groups, including PWJ, and a team from the Air SDF took part in the operations in Atsuma, where last week’s temblor measured 7, the highest level on the Japanese seismic intensity scale. PWJ sent Yumenosuke and two other dogs.
“With houses engulfed by landslides, it was difficult for them to detect human scent,” PWJ’s Junko Onishi, 46, a handler for another rescue dog from the NPO, recalls.
Still, the rescue dogs helped narrow down sections for landslide clearance work by identifying areas where someone might have been trapped, according to Onishi.
“As Yumenosuke is eight years old, he may need to retire shortly,” says Nishi, who started to partner with the dog about one and a half years ago.