MORIOKA/SENDAI – An estimated 1,100 people remained stranded in eight municipalities in Iwate Prefecture and 17 were still missing late Thursday, two days after Typhoon Lionrock struck the region, killing 11.
Police and Self-Defense Forces were rushing to rescue residents in the town of Iwaizumi, where the missing 17 lived. The town saw 10 people killed by flooding, including nine at a nursing home, when the storm hit on Tuesday.
According to the town, most of the 17 people are elderly residents whose homes were inundated with floodwaters and whose access to roads was cut off, hampering efforts by municipal officials and welfare workers to confirm their safety.
In Iwaizumi and the city of Kuji, also in Iwate, evacuation advisories were still in place for 15,780 households comprising 36,582 people on Thursday morning. The areas were still at high risk of mudslides.
Water supplies and electricity had been cut off in many areas.
The town decided to airlift 30 residents who needed dialysis treatment to hospitals in other municipalities, such as Morioka.
Bad communication among government agencies has been partly blamed for delays in evacuations.
For example, Iwaizumi issued an evacuation advisory in districts north of the town office at 2 p.m. Tuesday, but the advisory was not shared with the Iwate Prefectural Government, delaying its wider dissemination, according to the prefecture. At 7 p.m. that day, the districts were not included in the prefecture’s list of areas where evacuations were recommended or ordered.
Elsewhere, the prefecture’s river department had been monitoring the Omoto River, which runs through the town. Despite learning that levels had drastically risen starting around Tuesday evening, it did not convey the findings to the town. Prefectural officials said this was due to “fear of causing confusion to the town office.”
On Thursday, some residents of the town started clearing mud from their homes as the weather cleared and temperatures rose.
A few even collected spring water from the nearby mountains to do their laundry.
“I’m relieved that my home escaped damage,” said Iwaizumi resident Kaoru Sasaki, 25. “But I hope the lifelines will be restored as soon as possible.”
The bodies of the nursing home’s residents have been placed in a public facility.
“I know some of the victims’ families in person, and it makes me sad when I think about their feelings,” a town official said.
Meanwhile, police and firefighters resumed search and rescue operations for three missing people in Hokkaido, which was also hit hard by Typhoon Lionrock.
They recovered a vehicle belonging to Yohei Suzuki, a 28-year-old who went missing when his vehicle fell into a river in the town of Taiki. No body was found inside, officials said.
Police are continuing to search the area as well as the towns of Shimizu and Shintoku.
According to the Meteorological Agency, another typhoon, the 12th of the season, has emerged south of Okinawa Prefecture and may make landfall on Saturday after approaching western Japan.
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