Severe flooding forces thousands to flee their homes in Japan

Published: 11 September 2015 9:42 CET

By Ika Koeck, IFRC

In the past two days over 120,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes as severe flooding triggered by heavy rains accompanying Typhoon Etau have inundated areas of northern and central Japan. The levels of rainfall have been unprecedented. In Tochigi Prefecture alone, more than 20 inches of rain fell in 24 hours in some locations. On Thursday the city of Joso in Ibaraki Prefecture was particularly hard hit when a levee of the Kinugawa River broke and entire homes were swept away in the torrent of water.

Over 2,000 rescue workers, including police and firefighters and Japan’s Self-Defence forces have been taking part in rescue operations. 12 helicopters and about 40 boats have been used in the rescue of more than 400 people, including over 270 who were airlifted to safety. Earlier today another levee in Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture collapsed, causing water to inundate sections of the city.

The Japanese Red Cross Society has activated its emergency response systems and personnel from its branches in Tochigi, Ibaraki and Tokyo prefectures have been helping in relief efforts. Teams have been distributing blankets, emergency kits and sleeping kits to people who fled their homes and took shelter in temporary evacuation centres set up by the government. Eight medical teams have been deployed to assess the welfare and needs of people housed in the evacuation centres and surrounding areas.  Staff at the Mito-Furukawa Red Cross Hospital is also on standby to receive any influx of sick or injured.

Dr. Yasuo Kondo, who is part of a medical team deployed from the Japanese Red Cross Koga Hospital, has been carrying out assessments in two evacuation centres in Ibaraki Prefecture.

“Most of the evacuees have escaped injury, but the exhaustion and the stress of living in the evacuation centres will continue to grow the longer they stay here," he said. "That is why medical support is indispensable at the moment.”

The Japan Meteorological Agency has issued emergency warnings of heavy rainfall, flooding and landslides in the coming days. An additional 800,000 people living in the Greater Tokyo area have been advised to evacuate until the situation improves.