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SHAKE AND BLOW
Hundreds trapped as floods sweep Japan
By Harumi OZAWA
Joso City , Japan (AFP) Sept 10, 2015


Japan city flooded as raging river breaks it banks: TV
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 10, 2015 - A Japanese city was flooded Thursday when a raging river burst its banks, destroying homes and cars as desperate residents waited for help, and as thousands of people were ordered to evacuate.

Dramatic television footage showed a wall of muddy water gushing from the swollen Kinugawa river in Joso city, north of Tokyo, which is home to around 65,000 people.

Several people are reportedly missing across the country as waist-high floods in some areas left rescuers scrambling to pluck residents to safety as a wide area was deluged in the wake of Typhoon Etau.

The huge rains also exacerbated a contaminated water problem at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant as it overwhelmed the site's drainage pumps, sending radiation-tainted water into the ocean.

"This is a scale of downpour that we have not experienced before," forecaster Takuya Deshimaru told an emergency press conference.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government was on high alert.

"The government will stand united and do its best to deal with the disaster... by putting its highest priority on people's lives," he told reporters.

In Joso, houses and vehicles were washed away along with some power lines, as military personnel headed to the area to help with the rescue mission.

A solitary man clutched onto a concrete power pole, unable to move as raging water surged by him. He was later rescued.

Nearby, an emergency official was suspended from a helicopter to rescue a person from a submerged home.

Desperate residents waved towels at rescuers as they stood on second-floor balconies waiting for help.

"Please continue to ask for help. Please do not give up hope," an NHK broadcaster said in an apparent message to helpless residents.

The city is about 60 kilometres (37 miles) outside the capital Tokyo, which has also been hit by flooding.

- Buried by landslides -

Joso is in Ibaraki prefecture, where the Japan Meteorological Agency had issued special warnings urging vigilance against mudslides and flooding. It had similar warnings for Tochigi prefecture.

"The prefecture has requested assistance from the Self-Defence Forces and police helicopters from the region. We are receiving their help," a prefectural official told AFP.

"We do not have updated information about the damage, but we know it is extensive and affected wide areas," he added.

Tochigi authorities ordered more than 90,000 residents to evacuate, while another 116,000 were advised to leave their homes, public broadcaster NHK said. In Ibaraki , at least 20,000 were ordered to evacuate for fears of floodings.

In Tochigi's Kanuma city, a local official said rescuers were searching for a missing person believed to be buried in mudslides.

"We don't know details of this person yet," he said.

NHK reported it was a woman in her 60s buried after mudslides destroyed houses. Her husband was rescued soon after, it added.

Two men were missing in Nikko, a city known for its historical shrines, after possibly being buried by landslides, public broadcaster NHK said.

Two other men in Nikko were rescued after being swept into a drainage gutter, but one was unconscious, the broadcaster said.

Etau, which smashed into Japan on Wednesday, moved out into the Sea of Japan (East Sea) by the end of the day, but a wall of rain continued to lash the country.

More than a dozen people were injured, including a 77-year-old woman who broke her leg after falling in strong winds, local reports said.

Nearly 700 people were awaiting rescue and at least 12 missing in Japan Thursday after torrential rains that saw a river burst its banks and deluge a city north of Tokyo.

Dramatic aerial footage showed whole houses being swept away by raging torrents in scenes eerily reminiscent of the devastating tsunami that crushed Japan's northeast coast in 2011.

Television images from Joso, a small city of 65,000, showed desperate residents waving towels as they stood on balconies trying to summon help after the levee on the Kinugawa river gave way, flooding an area that reports said spanned 32 square kilometres (12 square miles) and included 6,500 homes.

Military helicopters plucked some stranded residents from roofs. One man was seen clutching a concrete post as waters swirled around him.

An estimated 690 people were still awaiting rescue as of 11:00 pm (1400 GMT), the National Police Agency said, according to Kyodo and Jiji Press news agencies, 10 hours after the levee burst.

"Please continue to ask for help. Please don't give up hope," an anchorman for public broadcaster NHK told trapped viewers.

"I've never seen the Kinugawa river burst its banks," 63-year-old Joso resident Akira Yoshihara told AFP.

"My house is on higher ground but I'm worried the water may reach it tonight."

At least 12 people were missing after being swept away when the levee burst, the reports said, citing the prefectural government.

"We know the damage is extensive and affected wide areas," an Ibaraki official told AFP.

More than 100,000 people had been ordered to leave their homes after a huge swathe of northeast Japan was battered by torrential rain, with up to 60 centimetres (two feet) falling in some places.

The rains came in the wake of Typhoon Etau, which smashed through the country on Wednesday, bringing strong winds and causing travel chaos.

- Trapped -

Forecasters from the Japan Meteorological Agency had issued special warnings urging vigilance against mudslides and flooding in Joso and other parts of Ibaraki prefecture, with 20,000 people there told to seek shelter.

Joso is about 60 kilometres (37 miles) outside Tokyo, which has also been hit by localised flooding.

In neighbouring Tochigi prefecture, authorities ordered more than 90,000 people to evacuate, while another 116,000 were advised to leave their homes, broadcaster NHK said.

A 63-year-old woman died after a landslide in Tochigi, Kyodo reported.

Flooding complicated a contaminated water problem at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, where the site's drainage pumps were overwhelmed, sending radiation-tainted water into the ocean, a spokesman for operator Tokyo Electric Power said.

"This is a scale of downpour that we have not experienced before," forecaster Takuya Deshimaru told an emergency press conference.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government was on high alert, and vowed to put the "highest priority" on saving people's lives.

Two men were missing in Tochigi's Nikko, a city known for its historic shrines, after possibly being buried by landslides, NHK said.

Two other men in Nikko were rescued after being swept into a drainage gutter, but one was unconscious, the broadcaster said.

Etau, which smashed into Japan on Wednesday, moved out into the Sea of Japan (East Sea) by the end of the day, but a wall of rain continued to lash the country.

More than a dozen people were injured, including a 77-year-old woman who broke her leg after falling in strong winds, local reports said.

Japan is no stranger to natural disasters, and is frequently rocked by typhoons.

However, nothing in recent memory has compared with the tsunami of 2011, when more than 18,000 people were killed.

bur-hih/pb/st/mfp

Tokyo Electric Power


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