People listed as missing after last week's flooding of the Kinugawa River in Joso, Ibaraki Prefecture have been located alive. The next priority will be reconstructing the breached riverbank, pumping out water from the inundated areas, cleaning up the debris and restoring lifelines such as power and water supplies for local residents. Also important will be a review of the actions taken by the local administrators as well as residents to protect their lives — so that damage can be minimized in the event of similar disasters in the future.

In recent years, abnormal weather phenomena such as typhoons, torrential rainfall and twisters are happening in greater frequency and severity, which is often associated with the effects of global warning. We increasingly hear of severe weather described as "unprecedented" or the "heaviest in decades." It most cases, both residents and officials of the municipalities in affected areas will have had no firsthand experience of a disaster of such magnitude.

Last week's flooding was caused by record-breaking torrential rains that hit the Kanto and Tohoku regions. The last time the Kinugawa River, which flows through northern Kanto, breached its embankments was reportedly in 1949. Many of the residents as well as officials in the city, which is some 50 km from downtown Tokyo, may not have imagined that the levee along the river would fail on Thursday, even though the Meteorological Agency had issued special alert for heavy rain and flooding for broad areas including the city the previous afternoon.