TSUKUBAMIRAI, IBARAKI PREF. – A day after unprecedented floods inundated parts of northern Kanto, evacuees in washed out Joso, Ibaraki Prefecture, wondered whether their lives would ever return to normal.
“I’m worried about my home … I’ve never imagined the banks of the (Kinugawa) river would collapse like this,” said Joso resident Yoshiro Kimura, 70, on Friday after spending a restless night in an emergency shelter in neighboring Tsukubamirai with his wife, Yasuko, 61.
In scenes reminiscent of the March 2011 tsunami, heavy rain from Typhoon Etau on Thursday caused the 4-meter-high east bank of the Kinugawa River to fail in northern Joso, releasing a deluge that submerged neighborhoods, swept away cars and homes and left residents stranded on rooftops.
The river also overflowed its banks further north of the breach, causing flood damage west of Tamamura Station on the Joso Line, run by Kanto Railway Co. The railway said operations on the Joso Line were suspended for the day and there is no timetable for resumption.
As of 10 a.m. Friday, 324 people had taken refuge at an emergency shelter in a gymnasium in Tsukubamirai, and Ground Self-Defense Force vehicles were dropping off more as rescue efforts continued.
Some were surprised by the scale of the damage and bemoaned the lack of information.
“Everybody seems to be tired. Some seemed to have had difficulty sleeping last night,” said Kotomi Kamezaki, 26, from the Mitsukaido district in southern Joso. “I didn’t think the situation would be so devastating … yesterday I thought I’d be able to go home within a day.”
Thainara Silva, a 21-year-old Brazilian who came to Japan with her family 18 years ago, said she never thought she would experience such a deluge in Japan.
“The mass of water suddenly rushed into my home from the window … it was horrible,” she said.
After calling for help many times, Silva was rescued and arrived at the evacuation center at around 5 a.m. with her entire family intact. She said her friends weren’t so lucky.
“Many of my friends are still in the evacuation zone … and said they can’t come here,” Silva said. “I don’t know what I can do.”
Masato Tsuchida, a 62-year-old financier also from Mitsukaido, heard about the evacuation order while at work in neighboring Tsukuba. He said the city’s staff and volunteers are playing a vital role in dealing with the flood. As of Friday afternoon, at least 32 emergency shelters had been set up to accommodate the 6,500 households flooded.
“I appreciate the support by the city and volunteers, although frankly speaking, we are all strangers,” Tsuchida said. “I know many of them are working without sleep.”
“But I’m worried the situation may linger for days since some of the evacuees here are elderly,” he said. “I have no idea when all the flood water in the city will be cleared and what will become of it.”