More than 3,000 residents of Joso remain evacuated after devastating floods; death toll hits 7

Kyodo, AFP-JIJI

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More than 3,000 residents of Joso, Ibaraki Prefecture, remained evacuated Sunday after floodwaters from unprecedented rainfall last week inundated vast stretches of residential areas and damaged critical infrastructure, including power, communication and drinking water supply systems.

With a total of seven deaths confirmed, including three in neighboring Tochigi Prefecture, police and rescuers continued to search by air and on the ground for the 15 people who remain missing.

Three more fatalities were reported Sunday, and two were confirmed dead in Joso — the first in the city of 65,100 located about 50 kilometers north of central Tokyo.

Joso Mayor Toru Takasugi offered an apology Sunday for a delay in issuing an evacuation order for some residents before the Kinugawa River breached its banks.

“I am very sorry. I never expected the levee to burst and failed to inform residents in areas where there were no reports about the river rising,” he told a news conference. The evacuation order was issued to about 350 households only after the river breached its banks.

Work was underway to restore power and water services in the area. Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility serving the area, said it had crews working around the clock to fix power outages.

As of Saturday night, about 11,200 homes in Joso were still without power and some 11,600 buildings in eastern parts of the city were without clean water, according to Tepco and the Ibaraki Prefectural Government

But it was not known how long it will take to restore the water supply, according to the municipal government of Joso.

Volunteers provided various kinds of support to evacuees at shelters, while residents of areas where waters had receded returned home to begin the cleanup.

Officials said more than 2,100 people were still at evacuation facilities in Joso on Sunday morning as over 4,000 houses were submerged and water supply was cut off.

Meanwhile, in Fukushima Prefecture, bags containing radioactive waste generated by decontamination work following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis have been swept away due to floods, officials said.

In the village of Iitate, the bags containing radioactive waste collected during the cleanup following the 2011 nuclear disaster were missing and some bags had leaked their contents.

The Environment Ministry said Sunday it was aware of 293 bags of radioactive waste that ended up in a river, of which 171 had been retrieved.

The number of missing in Joso dropped from 22 to 15 Saturday after police found more victims alive, including a pair of 8-year-old children.

The Kinugawa River burst its banks Thursday due to heavy rain, leading to flooding over an estimated 40 square kilometers.

In Tochigi Prefecture, also hit by severe floods, local officials said the body of Osamu Ogura, 68, was found Sunday morning in a car submerged in a flooded field in the town of Fujioka. Local police said he had drowned. Ogura had not been reported missing.

Floods also ravaged other eastern areas of the Kanto and Tohoku regions.

In Kanuma, Tochigi Prefecture, a 63-year-old woman was killed in a landslide, while a 48-year-old woman was also found dead in Miyagi Prefecture.

The third victim was a 25-year-old man helping to clear clogged drains in the city of Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, which is known for its historic shrines.

Police also found the body of a man in another river in Miyagi who was believed to be a 62-year-old missing in the prefecture, local media reported.