Hiroshima remembers victims of deadly landslides on third anniversary of the disaster

Kyodo

A memorial service was held Sunday in Hiroshima to commemorate the third anniversary of the landslides that claimed the lives of 77 people.

“I don’t want anyone else to become a victim or a person feeling like us,” said 77-year-old Takako Miyamoto, one of the speakers at the event. She lost her husband after torrential rain triggered landslides in residential areas close to mountains in the city early on Aug. 20, 2014.

“It is really painful and sad. Our lives were ruined after losing everything dear to us, homes destroyed,” said Miyamoto, who was seriously injured in the landslide.

Touching on recent natural disasters including the torrential rain in Kyushu last month, she said she “sincerely hopes that no one else dies in a disaster.”

Three years ago, about 400 houses were either washed away or damaged by the landslides that struck Hiroshima.

“Residents are providing mutual support and the work to protect each other has progressed,” Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui said at the ceremony. “We’d like to support these efforts.”

Jointly hosted by the Hiroshima municipal and prefectural governments, the event was held in Asakita Ward, one of the hardest-hit areas.

Families and residents visited the devastated sites early Sunday to offer flowers and pray for those who died. Some touched the names of victims listed on a monument, while others tearfully clasped hands.

Hina Sawamoto, a 16-year-old high school student in the city of Hiroshima, lost her grandmother after a mudslide smashed into her house that day. She sometimes recalls the mudslide when it rains heavily and becomes worried that disaster may strike again.

The teenager said she wants to give a helping hand to those affected by the downpours in Kyushu, just as she was helped by volunteers after the disaster in Hiroshima.

She went to Oita Prefecture last month with her father, Yasuhiro, 46, and helped a family whose house had been swept away by a mudslide. “I was supported by many people. So I wanted to show my gratitude,” she said.

Although she was helping out, Sawamoto said she did not really get to talk with the victims. “Sometimes people want to be left alone. I know how they were feeling.” At the time of the disaster, residents in the devastated area had not been informed of the landslide risk, as many of the sites were not designated within the warning zone in accordance with the law on prevention of landslide disasters.

Afterward, the state revised the law and obliged prefectural governments to swiftly make public the results of basic investigations of terrain and geological conditions. The revised law took effect in January 2015.

According to the Hiroshima Prefectural Government, emergency work since the disaster to make 57 locations more resistant to landslides was completed in May this year.

The prefecture is expected to designate around 50,000 locations as landslide warning zones, but only about 40 percent of the areas had been so designated as of Aug. 10.