• Kyodo, JIJI


Japan will disburse about ¥710 million ($6.5 million) from reserves in the fiscal 2019 budget to deal with the aftermath of the most powerful typhoon to hit the country in decades, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday.

The funds will be used to set up temporary toilets and send necessities such as water, food and cardboard beds to shelters in central, eastern and northeastern parts of the country flooded by record-breaking rainfall over the weekend.

The Cabinet was set to approve the disbursement later in the day, Abe told a Diet session. Officials said the government is considering earmarking a larger share of the reserves for disaster relief and crafting a supplementary budget as well.

As of Wednesday morning, there were about 4,400 evacuees in 188 shelters, according to the Cabinet Office.

Rescuers continued to wade through mud to search for survivors of Typhoon Hagibis — though the first 72 hours, considered critical for finding people alive, have lapsed.

At least 74 people were killed by the typhoon and more than a dozen remain missing, according to a Kyodo News tally based on official information collected from each region.

For residents of mountainous settlements who have been stranded due to road damage, the Self-Defense Forces have transported relief supplies using helicopters. Police personnel also visited such residents on foot to confirm their safety.

Speaking at the Upper House Budget Committee, Abe reiterated a government plan to survey affected regions and determine whether they could be designated as suffering from a serious disaster, which would trigger the release of further subsidies for recovery efforts.

“We will make the utmost effort so the disaster victims can return to their lives without worries as soon as possible,” he said.

A man clears debris in the city of Nagano on Tuesday after the area was flooded when the Chikuma River breached its banks.  | KYODO
A man clears debris in the city of Nagano on Tuesday after the area was flooded when the Chikuma River breached its banks.  | KYODO

With Japan having been hit by a number of natural disasters in recent years — including Typhoon Faxai in September, which devastated wide areas of Chiba Prefecture near Tokyo, and torrential rain across the west of the nation last year, which left more than 200 people dead — Abe said he aims to create a “land that is strong and resilient against disasters” in the long run.

The northeast, devastated in 2011 by a massive earthquake and tsunami, was especially hard hit by the latest typhoon. The death toll of 26 in Fukushima, after the Abukuma River burst its banks, was the highest among Japan’s 47 prefectures.

A major search and rescue operation continued in Marumori, Miyagi Prefecture, through which the Abukuma runs and where the deaths of five people have been confirmed. Officials said the river’s water levels had reached as high as 23 meters.

Some areas along the Naka River in the city of Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, are believed to have seen floodwaters up to about 7.2 meters deep, the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan found Tuesday.

According to the agency’s analysis, water levels are estimated to have risen to that height in fields to the south of an interchange for the Joban Expressway in the northern area of the city.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism confirmed collapsed embankments at 79 locations along 55 rivers as of 5 a.m. Wednesday, mainly in Miyagi, Fukushima, Nagano and Tochigi prefectures, up from the 74 announced Tuesday, as it continues to assess the extent of the damage.

The ministry said it plans to set up a panel of experts to study damage along seven state-controlled rivers that flooded neighboring areas. The panel plans to draw conclusions within a few months as to why river embankments collapsed, and how to rebuild them in a more resilient way.

The seven rivers include the Abukuma, the Chikuma in Nagano Prefecture and the Yoshida in Miyagi Prefecture.

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