Freezing temperatures break pipes, cutting water supply to thousands in Kyushu

Kyodo, JIJI


The water supply disruption in southwestern Japan that resulted from freezing temperatures earlier in the week continued through Wednesday, prompting local governments to ask for more help in the hardest-hit areas.

The Kagoshima Prefectural government asked the Self-Defense Forces to provide water to facilities in the city of Aira where the supply was discontinued due to cracks in water pipes caused by the freezing.

Hiroshima Prefecture also asked the SDF on Wednesday to dispatch a disaster relief team to the town of Kitahiroshima.

As of Wednesday evening, water was cut off to some 29,000 households in the city of Omuta, Fukuoka Prefecture. The land ministry’s Kyushu Regional Development Bureau dispatched a vessel to Miike Port to supply 7,000 liters of drinking water for the residents there.

A 57-year-old man who runs a bento boxed lunch store in Omuta said he could not open his store Wednesday to prepare meals due to the lack of water. “I hope we can resume (service) tomorrow,” he said.

Since early morning on the same day, Omuta residents lined up in front of emergency water supply tanks set up by the SDF at a site where a public junior high school once stood.

“The worst thing is that you can’t take a bath,” lamented a 66-year-old male factory worker who said he had not bathed for three days.

“As I can’t use the toilet, I have to wrap (excrement) in paper sheets and stack them in the backyard,” said a 70-year-old woman.

Also as of Wednesday afternoon, water supplies were still cut to around 147,000 households in seven prefectures in the Kyushu region, including Saga, Nagasaki, Oita and Miyazaki, whose governments similarly asked the SDF for assistance.

Many hospitals were in need of water for such things as dialysis treatment and many elementary schools, junior high schools and schools for children with special needs were closed.

Disrupted water supplies also affected the island of Shikoku, including approximately 1,400 households in the city of Yawatahama and other places in Ehime Prefecture. The city of Miyoshi and other places in Tokushima Prefecture also suffered water supply problems.

A spokesman for a major pipe maker said while water pipes in cold regions are wrapped with insulating materials to prevent them from freezing, similar measures were not taken in Kyushu because such temperatures were not expected.