Downpours in west kill one; two missing

Trains halted; Byodoin said safe as floods swamp Uji

Kyodo

Torrential rain struck a wide area Tuesday from western to eastern Japan, leaving a woman dead in Osaka Prefecture, two people missing in Kyoto and disrupting transportation services, local authorities said.

In the Osaka city of Hirakata, a woman in her 60s who was found floating in a swollen canal was later confirmed dead.

In the city of Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, an elderly couple were listed as missing after their home was washed away by a swollen river at around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to police.

Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada asked the Self-Defense Forces to conduct a search of the area.

More than 1,000 households in Uji were flooded above or just below floor level, according to a local disaster countermeasure headquarters.

Residents of Uji, where such flooding is considered rare, were totally unprepared and appeared at a loss.

“I was so scared,” said a woman living in the Shizugawa district, where a number of houses were hit. “It was like buckets of water turned upside down. I feared what would happen to the nearby river if this downpour continued.”

Although damage to the Phoenix Hall of Byodoin Temple, a national treasure and World Heritage property, was not confirmed, mud slid for about 10 meters in the compound’s garden and trees were knocked down. The compound was built to represent heaven in the Buddhist world.

“I’ve never seen such a scene before,” a temple spokesman said.

Although Byodoin managed to avoid structural damage, a part of the nearby Obakusan Manpukuji Temple, which is designated as an important cultural property, was flooded above floor level.

Ninety to 110 mm of rain fell in just one hour Tuesday in some parts of Shiga, Kyoto and Osaka prefectures, prompting the Meteorological Agency to issue a downpour advisory.

The agency said weather conditions in extensive areas of Japan were volatile due to a warm, humid air mass that approached from the south.

The heavy rain halted bullet trains on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line and delayed runs on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line, and triggered a mudslide on a railway in Kyoto. Numerous local train services across western Japan were disrupted.

A mudslide on part of the Keiji bypass highway in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, closed that section to traffic.