National

Despite order for 1.1 million to evacuate, only 6,301 used Kyushu shelters during heavy rains

JIJI, Kyodo

Only 6,301 people actually took shelter after evacuation orders were issued for 1.1 million residents in Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures on Wednesday and Thursday due to heavy rains, authorities said.

According to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, a total of 820 shelters had been prepared in the two prefectures as of 4:30 a.m. Thursday.

A woman in her 70s in the city of Kagoshima decided not to go to a shelter only a few hundred meters from her home, mainly because a member of her family said that a river running nearby “seems fine.”

“As my legs are weak, I didn’t want to go outside in the rain,” she added.

“The figure of 6,300 was … rather small,” Nihon University professor Hiromichi Nakamori said, while noting that, “There could be cases in which going outside is more dangerous, depending on the situation in the neighborhood.”

He said the central and local governments need to think about what they should do to make residents follow their instructions and keep them aware of the need to take action to ensure their safety.

By Friday morning, all the evacuation orders in the two prefectures had been lifted.

The heavy rain claimed two lives.

In Soo, Kagoshima Prefecture, where a record 421 millimeters of rain was registered the previous day, Ground Self-Defense Force members and rescue workers searched for an 85-year-old woman after a neighbor made an emergency call in the morning saying her house had been hit by a mudslide. The woman was confirmed dead later Thursday.

“My mother was not able to walk well and could not drive, so maybe she missed the chance to evacuate,” said the victim’s son, Masami Yamashita, 59.

In the city of Kagoshima, a woman in her 70s was killed Monday, also after being buried by a mudslide that engulfed her house.

The heavy rain triggered mudslides at dozens of places in Kagoshima Prefecture and rivers were swollen, according to local government officials. According to a tally by the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, five people sustained injuries in the prefecture.

In Miyazaki Prefecture, a dozen people were temporarily stranded after a landslide blocked a road in Miyakonojo.