National

At least 25,000 hectares flooded by Hagibis, surpassing last year's deadly west Japan floods

Kyodo

At least 25,000 hectares on Honshu were confirmed flooded after deadly Typhoon Hagibis devastated 10 prefectures with record-breaking rainfall and strong winds last weekend, the government said.

The flooded areas surpassed the 18,500 hectares logged in last year’s torrential rain disaster in western Japan, which killed more than 200 people.

While repair work continues, the country needs to stay cautious as the Meteorological Agency warned Friday of the chance of a secondary disaster striking several areas of the country due to expected heavy downpours over the weekend.

In the 24 hours to 6 a.m. Saturday, rainfall of up to 120 millimeters is expected in Shizuoka Prefecture, where Typhoon Hagibis made landfall last weekend, 100 mm in the Kanto-Koshin region covering Tokyo and Niigata, and 50 mm in the northeastern parts of Tohoku, according to the Meteorological Agency.

The agency warned that even small amounts of rain can raise the risk of flooding and mudslides in the areas and urged the public to remain alert for danger.

Hagibis caused rivers to overflow and left more than 100 embankments collapsed. It claimed at least 79 lives and left more than a dozen people missing and some 2,400 homes damaged or destroyed, according to government data.

Of the 66 victims whose ages are known, 49 were over 60 years old. Of the 79 victims, nearly 50 died in floods and about a dozen from landslides.

The infrastructure ministry said it expects to finish emergency repair work on collapsed embankments at 12 locations along seven rivers by Monday.

The work involves placing concrete blocks installed on the embankments and piling soil over them, as well as using sandbags and tarps to enhance their strength and durability.

The ministry aims to fully rebuild the embankments by around June next year after local bureaus set up panels to review the construction methods.

The flooding along the Chikuma River in Nagano inundated 10 bullet trains comprising 120 cars at East Japan Railway Co.’s railyard in the city.

JR East said it expects to resume services along the entire Hokuriku bullet train line between Tokyo and Kanazawa stations from Oct. 25, although operations will be at about 80 percent of the pre-typhoon level.

The swamped trains might be scrapped as the company has confirmed serious damage to the electrical systems underneath the flooring, it said.

As of Friday afternoon, more than 3,900 people were sheltering at evacuation centers in 10 prefectures and over 600 people in six of them were isolated by road and bridge outages.

Temperatures fell to this season’s lows in hard-hit northeastern Japan, leaving many evacuees weary after sleeping on thin mats at shelters for days.

“It was cold. I couldn’t sleep well as I also worried whether I can return home,” said 56-year-old Tomoko Yamaki at an evacuation center in the town of Marumori in Miyagi Prefecture, which logged a low of 4.6 on Thursday morning.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Fukushima Prefecture the same day, where 27 deaths were confirmed, the highest among the country’s prefectures, and met with the affected at an evacuation center in Koriyama.

Abe’s government has decided to disburse about ¥710 million from ¥500 billion in reserves set aside under the fiscal 2019 budget. It is also considering compiling an extra budget to finance reconstruction, officials said.

While 31,000 Self-Defense Forces members have been mobilized, the Defense Ministry has decided to dispatch an additional 200 reserve members as the affected areas need more hands to help distribute supplies, providing baths and other support for an extended period of time.

It was the first time reserve members have been summoned since 2011, when Tohoku was hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami.

The government also said Friday that the typhoon caused at least ¥38.3 billion in damage to agricultural industries.

The amount could climb further as the ministry is still trying to grasp the full extent of the damage.

The ministry made the estimate based on reports from 34 of Japan’s 47 prefectures.

Among the most affected regions, apple and plum orchards in Nagano and Fukushima prefectures were inundated. Livestock and rice farmers were also hit hard in central, eastern and northeastern Japan, according to the ministry.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Taku Eto told reporters he intends to visit disaster-hit areas soon and “explain relief measures to support reconstruction efforts.”