Japan: Red Cross helps islanders after worst typhoon in a decade

Publié: 23 octobre 2013 12:37 CET

By Midori Tasaka, Japanese Red Cross Society

For 16-year-old Daiki Sawada, the night that Typhoon Wipha struck the small island of Izu Oshima, where he lives, was a terrifying experience he will not forget easily.

“I was sleeping and I woke up at 1.30am. By the time I realized what was happening, the water was already up to my ankles and rising fast. I didn’t know what to do, so I called my family on the phone. My grandfather told me not to open the window or go outside unless the house was about to collapse and to hold on to the sturdiest pillar inside,” the high school student says.

His grandfather, Yoshi Sawada, 74, is a long-standing member of the Japanese Red Cross Society and is no stranger to typhoons. The island of Izu Oshima, 120 kilometres south of Tokyo, has suffered plenty.

“In 1958, when a typhoon hit Izu Oshima, I saw people drown outside, so that’s why I told my grandson not to go outside, as long as house doesn’t collapse. We were lucky that our house did not collapse.”  

By around 6am in the morning, the water level had started to fall and Yoshi was able to pull his grandson to safety through the window.

Japanese Red Cross Society sends medical teams
The Japanese Red Cross Society has now sent four medical teams to help residents on the island, many of them elderly, after the strongest typhoon in a decade brought landslides and floods, leaving dozens dead or missing. And another storm is on its way.

Among the Red Cross relief supplies were 180 emergency sets (including an emergency radio and flashlight) and 875 sleeping kits (including a sleeping mat, pillow, sleeping eye masks, ear plugs, slippers and socks) and more than 2,000 packs of tissues.

As Typhoon Wipha struck eastern Japan during the night of 15 October and continued to batter the country until the morning of 16 October, the island of Izu Oshima recorded its heaviest rainfall in 75 years: more than 120mm per hour, or more than 820mm in 24 hours.

Preparing to evacuate
The island is popular with holidaymakers in the summer months, who often travel by boat from Tokyo. As of 23 October, in the aftermath of Typhoon Wipha, 33 people were reported dead (29 from Izu Oshima island), 18 people were missing and 106 people were injured, 17 of whom seriously.

A total of 50,688 households were warned to evacuate on 20 October, due to fears of further heavy rain and landslides. However, by 21 October, the warning was dismissed. Most of the evacuation centres have been closed, except for evacuation centres for the elderly.

So far, 80 elderly islanders have decided to evacuate to safety away from the island as typhoon number 27 of the season, Typhoon Francisco, heads towards Japan. On 23 October, the government transferred the 80 residents aboard the Tokai Kisen to the main island of Honshu.

The Japanese Red Cross Society continues to deploy medical teams and to provide assistance for those who decided to stay, and to prepare for the next typhoon’s arrival. “I was born here, so I don’t want to leave home,” says Yoshi Sawada.