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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Japan official criticised for piggyback ride over puddle
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 13, 2016


A senior Japanese politician is under fire after getting a piggyback over a large puddle while inspecting the deadly aftermath of a typhoon -- and joking he could get in trouble for doing it.

Shunsuke Mutai, parliamentary vice minister for reconstruction, was visiting the hard-hit northern town of Iwaizumi where 19 people died in devastating Typhoon Lionrock.

Mutai, 60, was shown riding on the back of a younger man over a large puddle of streaming water on September 1 while leading a central government damage assessment team.

Clad in a blue work uniform and black shoes, he was apparently trying to avoid getting his feet wet. Most other accompanying officials wore long rubber boots for protection.

"I'll be in trouble if this is caught on camera," Mutai was seen saying on footage aired on private broadcaster TBS after being put down.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan's top government spokesman, on Monday called Mutai's conduct "inappropriate" and said he should have brought along a pair of boots given his role as head of the government investigation team.

Iwaizumi, in Iwate prefecture, was the hardest hit area. Among the dead there were nine people buried inside a residence home for the elderly that was overwhelmed by mud and debris that flowed inside from a surging river.

Overall, 22 people died as a result of the typhoon, one of a series that recently struck northern Japan.

Jun Matsumoto, state minister for disaster management, said Tuesday that as Mutai's supervisor he was "sorry," and stressed his conduct was "inappropriate as it lacked consideration for people and areas hit by the disaster".

Mutai, a member of parliament, himself has said that he "deeply regrets" his behaviour.

Just a little over a week earlier in India, a senior politician was intensely mocked after photos showed policemen carrying him through ankle-deep muddy water while inspecting deadly floods.


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