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Reconstruction in the wake of torrential rain in Kyushu has been hampered by a manpower shortage amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, with the region marking on Tuesday one month since the disaster that killed 76 people and left three others missing.

The hardest-hit prefecture of Kumamoto, where 65 people died and 1,408 were living in evacuation shelters as of Monday, has struggled to secure sufficient workers for recovery efforts, such as removal of debris, because it is only soliciting volunteers locally for fear of introducing the virus.

Both a public health nurse in his 30s, sent to Kumamoto from Takamatsu in Kagawa Prefecture to help check the health of residents at evacuation centers, and a Jiji Press photographer in his 30s who covered the natural disaster, tested positive for the virus in July.

On Tuesday, around 60 people mourned the victims by offering silent prayers in the village of Kuma, Kumamoto Prefecture, where 25 people died after a river flooded.

“We will promote the reconstruction with the help of many people,” Kuma Mayor Koichi Matsutani told officials.

A woman prays Tuesday for victims at Senjuen nursing home in Kuma, Kumamoto Prefecture, where 14 residents died in the floods. | KYODO
A woman prays Tuesday for victims at Senjuen nursing home in Kuma, Kumamoto Prefecture, where 14 residents died in the floods. | KYODO

Bereaved family members and others offered flowers for 14 residents of the Senjuen nursing home in the village who were killed after the Kuma River flooded.

The areas along the river were struck particularly hard by the heavy downpour that caused levees to break and swept away bridges and houses.

In the city of Hitoyoshi, also in Kumamoto Prefecture, where 20 people perished, Mayor Hayato Matsuoka told a disaster task force meeting, “We will devote all our strength and heart to removing the difficulties faced by survivors and stabilizing their livelihoods.”

A man prays for victims in Kuma, Kumamoto Prefecture, on Tuesday, one month after torrential rain killed dozens in Kyushu. | KYODO
A man prays for victims in Kuma, Kumamoto Prefecture, on Tuesday, one month after torrential rain killed dozens in Kyushu. | KYODO

Over the course of the long storm that battered a wide area of the country, a total of 82 people were killed and more than 17,000 houses in 34 of the nation’s 47 prefectures were damaged, according to a tally by the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

Among them, 272 buildings were destroyed and 579 partially damaged, the agency also said.

The central government is planning to provide financial aid to some of the households whose residences were at least partially destroyed in the disaster, according to the Cabinet Office.

Local governors have asked the central government to expand the scope of its subsidies, as the current system only covers houses that are completely destroyed or severely damaged.

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