National

Spate of typhoon deaths during travel in cars underscores need for early evacuations

Kyodo

Many of the deaths seen during recent powerful typhoons in Japan occurred while victims were traveling in vehicles, local authorities said Monday, underscoring the need for people to evacuate early and reach safety with plenty of time to spare.

Half of the 10 people who died in Fukushima and Chiba prefectures from heavy rain accompanying Typhoon Bualoi late last week were found inside or near vehicles that had been submerged or swept away by flood water, while 25 of the 87 killed by Typhoon Hagibis earlier this month were also in vehicles.

“People have no choice but to use vehicles when they travel a long distance with the elderly or children amid the rain,” said Hirotada Hirose, professor emeritus at Tokyo Woman’s Christian University specializing in disaster risk studies. “What’s important is timing. They should follow government instructions and finish evacuating or traveling early. If they are too late, they shouldn’t go outside but should just stay on the upper floors of a building,” Hirose said.

The Fukushima Prefectural Government said a 61-year-old mother was found dead and her 38-year-old son went missing in the city of Soma after their light vehicle was apparently swept away by floodwaters.

In Nagara, Chiba Prefecture, 88-year-old Choju Iwase was found inside a submerged vehicle after telling his son by phone that he was trapped inside. Iwase was planning to take shelter at his son’s home, which is located on a hill, according to the Chiba government. In the same town, postman Naruo Tsuruoka, 54, died after his vehicle was swept off a bridge as he traveled to pick up his 6-year-old son.

The Chiba government announced Monday that a man in the city of Urayasu in his 80s was missing. His vehicle was found in a rice paddy in the city of Sakura, which suffered severe flood damage last week.

Chiba Prefecture’s evacuation guidelines for tsunami say water as deep as 50 centimeters can trap a person inside a vehicle, cause it to float and put it at risk of being swept away. The Meteorological Agency urges people not to travel using vehicles when rainfall exceeds 50 millimeters per hour.

The land ministry said Monday that 34 rivers overflowed in five prefectures including Fukushima and Chiba due to heavy rain accompanying Typhoon Bualoi last week.

At one time a total of some 2,400 hectares of land were submerged in water, the ministry said.

When Typhoon Hagibis made landfall earlier this month, river levees were broken at 140 locations on 71 rivers, and at least 25,000 hectares on Honshu were confirmed flooded, according to the ministry.

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