National

Niigata flood death toll hits 12; more rain coming

Kyodo

The number of deaths caused by torrential rain this week rose to 12 Thursday in Niigata Prefecture, as six more bodies were found.

Three people were also listed as missing in Niigata and the adjacent Fukushima prefecture, as authorities received new information of those unaccounted for in the flood-hit areas.

Local authorities wrapped up rescue operations, with the number evacuated reaching 4,500 in the prefecture as of Thursday morning.

Authorities remain on alert, however, with the Meteorological Agency predicting more heavy rainfall in the area.

The body of Kikuno Kiyokawa, 72, was found in the morning on a riverbank in the town of Tsugawa, two days after she went out to do farm work. The body of Kiyoshi Sato, 72, was found in the city of Sanjo.

In the afternoon, four others — Miyo Furukawa, 87, and Shizue Ito, 84, both of Sanjo, and Kazuei Honma, 78, and Tomatsu Murakoshi, 76, of Nakanoshima — were found dead in their homes.

Some 13,200 households in Sanjo and seven other municipalities in Niigata Prefecture were advised by authorities to evacuate their homes. About 6,000 people have taken shelter at gymnasiums and other public facilities.

About 23,000 houses and apartments were flooded, the prefectural government said. More than 4,000 houses remain without electricity, according to Tohoku Electric Power Co.

Was advisory too late?

The government is examining whether a delay in the issuance of a public evacuation advisory may be to blame for nine deaths tied to heavy rain that hit Niigata Prefecture and surrounding areas this week, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Thursday.

“We need to closely check the matter . . . from the viewpoint of disaster prevention in the future,” Koizumi told reporters.

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