An evacuation center in Tokyo turned away two homeless people as a deadly typhoon approached on the weekend, prompting widespread criticism and a promise from the prime minister on Tuesday that it would not happen again.
Staff at the evacuation center at a school in Taito Ward refused to let the two in on Saturday because they did not have addresses in the area, a ward official said. Staff told them the shelter was only for ward residents, he said.
“The wind was strong and it was raining, and I wanted them to let me in,” a 64-year-old homeless man told the Asahi Shimbun.
He said he had arrived at the evacuation center in the morning and was asked to write down his name and address. When he said he had an address in Hokkaido, he was refused entry because he was not a resident of the ward.
The man spent the night under a plastic umbrella, partially shielded beneath the eaves of a building, the newspaper said.
Another homeless man was also turned away when he visited the center in the afternoon, the newspaper said.
Typhoon Hagibis, which made landfall on Saturday evening, killed at least 69 people, including one death reported in Tokyo, with the death toll expected to rise as rescuers continued their search for the missing.
Social media lit up with criticism of the ward, with many people denouncing its actions as a violation of human rights.
“Is this a country that’s going to host the Olympics in Tokyo?” one man with the handle @G_takatoshi asked on Twitter.
“People from abroad would see this and think this is a terrible country.”
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, asked by an opposition party member in the Diet about the incident, said that evacuation centers should welcome everyone.
“Evacuation centers should let anyone in who has come to evacuate,” he told the Diet.
“We will look into the facts and take appropriate measures.”
Taito Ward said it would review its procedures to help people without addresses in the ward.