NIIGATA – Niigata Prefecture authorities sought Wednesday to prevent natural dams formed by landslides set off by recent strong earthquakes from bursting and thus causing secondary disasters.
Meanwhile, the death toll from the temblors rose to 38 as authorities counted the Oct. 24 death of a 67-year-old company executive as quake-induced.
According to prefectural police, Akira Yano, of the city of Uonuma, died of heart failure believed caused by stress and fatigue following the quakes.
Yano had to evacuate his house and moved into his car on Oct. 23, after a magnitude 6.8 quake hit the prefecture. He died the next day while cleaning up his house, police said.
The Niigata Prefectural Government undertook a concerted effort Wednesday to prevent secondary damage from the breaking of natural dams created by landslides in the city of Ojiya and the village of Yamakoshi.
Dams formed by slides caused several houses in Yamakoshi to become submerged, but authorities have been unable to grasp the exact scope of the damage, local officials said.
If one of the dams burst on the Imokawa River, villages downstream could be flooded, the officials said.
The prefecture prepared pumps along the river as the water level rose by 1 meter per day due to downpours at the end of last month.
The Meteorological Agency forecast heavy rain in the area beginning Wednesday night.
Since roads to the flooded areas are still closed, the prefectural government airlifted pumps, generators and drilling equipment to the site.
It said it has been monitoring the situation since it found five natural dams on the river on Oct. 25. It has set up surveillance cameras near two of them and wire censors and alarm units near the others.
The prefecture has recommended that 439 people in 101 households in the downstream communities, including parts of the city of Uonuma, evacuate as a precaution.
All of the roughly 2,000 Yamakoshi residents have evacuated to the city of Nagaoka. The prefecture said construction of temporary housing units to accommodate the villagers would begin later this week.
According to the prefecture, roughly 50,000 people in the quake-hit Chuetsu region, including 11,600 in Nagaoka and 20,600 in Ojiya, are still unable to return home.
At least 7,500 evacuees are sleeping in tents and inside their vehicles.
Electricity has been restored to most of the quake-hit regions except for Yamakoshi and part of Ojiya, according to Tohoku Electric Power Co.
The Oct. 23 quakes cut off power to roughly 300,000 households at one point, but the number without electricity has declined to about 2,300 — mostly in areas where utility workers are unable to enter due to evacuation orders.
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