Historic rainfall devastates Japan during 1st half of July
A road in Takayama, Japan, was heavily damaged after heavy rain and deadly flooding lashed the area earlier in the month.
Rounds of wet weather have been drenching parts of southern Japan since the end of June, with one of the most severe incidents occurring from July 3-4 when devastating flooding and landslides battered the island of Kyushu.
An emergency warning, the highest warning level used by the Japan Meteorological Agency, was issued for rain and landslides in southern Kyushu. Around 381 mm (15 inches) of rain fell in just six hours, an all-time record for rainfall according to Sayaka Mori, a meteorologist for NHK.
"Historic heavy rain has been hitting Japan. Kanoya had 1,082 mm (43 inches) of rain within a week, which is about a half of the annual rainfall," Mori stated on Twitter on July 9.
An image from a video published by NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) shows a landslide on Wednesday, July 8, 2020, that occurred in a residential area of Hita City, Oita Prefecture, and covered several houses with mud and trees.
Kyushu is Japan's third-largest island and home to more than 12 million people. Approximately 3 million of those residents were advised to evacuate.
Sixty people have been confirmed dead in Kumamoto Prefecture, two in Fukuoka Prefecture and one in Oita Prefecture due to the flooding. Thirty-five people were found indoors and it is believed that most could not escape flooded houses, according to NHK.
The Kuma River, which flows through the Kumamoto Prefecture and Kuma Village, rose well above its banks on July 4, washing away at least one bridge and cutting off citizens from rescue crews and causing widespread power outages.
Survivors told harrowing accounts of nearly being swept away in the raging floodwaters and witnessing those who were overcome by the deluge. Keisuke Masuda, a resident of Hitoyoshi city, said he watched in terror as a neighbor was pulled away by rushing floodwaters.
"He was swept away right before my eyes," Masuda said, according to AFP. The 67-year-old said the neighbor was hanging on to a bush, but eventually lost his grip as the floodwaters proved too powerful. The neighbor, Masuda said, waved goodbye to his wife as the water pulled him away. "I was overcome with a sense of helplessness," Masuda recalled.
The river also flooded the Senja Nursing Home located near its edge, killing a total of 14 residents who were stranded on the lowest level.
The Chikugo River in Fukuoka Prefecture has also flooded a large residential area.
"According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, due to record heavy rainfall, as of 6 a.m on July 13, in Kumamoto Prefecture, Oita Prefecture and Kagoshima Prefecture, a total of more than 13,000 households are out of water," reported NHK.
On July 13, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Kumamoto Prefecture where he surveyed the damage and stopped at the Senjuen nursing home to offer a moment of silence.
The prime minister told reporters he would put together a relief package with a budget of 400 billion yen (over $3.7 billion U.S. dollars) to support the area. He was also looking into declaring a "specific emergency disaster" which would postpone bankruptcy proceedings for those impacted by the flood. If it is passed it would be the seventh occurrence, according to NHK.
AccuWeather forecasters will be monitoring the potential for more rain across Japan as a semi-stationary front, called the mei-yu front, will remain draped over the region. A couple of storms moving along the front can bring a few showers this week, but they are not expected to bring flooding downpours as severe as those earlier in the month.
Later in the week forecasters will be keeping an eye on Carina, currently a tropical depression located near the northern Philippines, that may pass close enough to southern Japan to enhance rainfall across flood-weary areas.
The mei-yu front, is a nearly stationary front that typically develops across eastern Asia during the late spring and early summer. It typically develops over southern China and Taiwan before shifting north during the middle of the summer and extending through central China and over Japan.
Rounds of storms will travel along this front through the summer months, bringing a rainy season to eastern Asia. This year has been particularly destructive for China and Japan.
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