Japan flooding disaster: Death toll tops 200; Heat creates deadly conditions for survivors

By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
By Adam Douty, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
July 15, 2018, 11:28:47 AM EDT

In the aftermath of the disastrous and historic flooding across western Japan, survivors and recovery crews will continue to face sweltering heat and humidity.

The death toll from flooding rose to 209 on Saturday with dozens more people still missing, according to the Japan Times.

This is the deadliest rain-related disaster in Japan since 1982 when more than 300 people were killed in Nagasaki and Kumamoto prefectures. The hardest-hit prefectures amid the current disaster are farther east in Hiroshima, Okayama and Ehime, though deaths have been reported in 14 prefectures.

The agriculture ministry assessed losses of at least $207 million on Friday, but that figure is expected to increase.

Through the middle of the week, extreme heat will pose a new threat across much of the country.

On Sunday, the Japan Times also reported that two people died as a result of the heat and another 2,061 others were hospitalized. The heat made it difficult to carry out relief efforts in areas recently hit by flooding.

The painstaking cleanup and recovery efforts will benefit from the largely dry weather that will dominate into the coming week.

Japan heavy rain July 12

Cars sit on a damaged road covered with mud after a mudslide caused by heavy rains hit Hiroshima, southwestern Japan, Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Haruka Nuga)

Any rain in the flood-stricken areas is expected to be limited to a stray shower or thunderstorm, mainly in the afternoon and evening hours and over the higher terrain.

Even in areas that stay dry, there is a risk for more landslides due to the unstable ground.

"As dry weather dominates, temperatures will rise and create uncomfortable conditions for those without power or access to clean drinking water," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Eric Leister said.

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High temperatures can soar between 32 and 37 C (90s F) in many of the lower elevations across western and southern Japan daily into the middle of the week. This includes Hiroshima, Osaka and Tokyo.

Sweltering humidity will push AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures between 38 and 43 C (100 and 110 F) during the midday and afternoon hours.

Little relief will come at night as temperatures only drop between 22-26 C (70s F) as humidity remains.

Japan 7/15

Residents without air conditioning, as well as those still searching for the missing and partaking in the daunting cleanup operations will be at a higher risk for heat-related illnesses. More than 70,000 military troops, police and firefighters are part of the rescue and recovery mission.

Staying hydrated is key to avoiding heat exhaustion or stroke. However, more than 200,000 homes have been cut off from water in western Japan.

Some people already felt ill when standing in lines at a water supply truck. Power outages and lack of refrigerators have put residents in danger of food poisoning.

Unsanitary conditions that transpire without clean water put survivors at risk for other diseases.

Nearly 6,000 people are staying in evacuation centers, where there is a shortage of temporary toilets. Experts expressed concern to the Japan Times that people are not eating or drinking enough to avoid bathroom use, which is heightening the risk of dehydration and blood clots.

As the region begins the long road to recovery, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that 71,000 buildings have been secured as temporary housing for the flood victims.

"The severe flooding resulted late last week as tropical moisture streamed across Japan in the days following the departure of Typhoon Prapiroon, which also unloaded rounds of heavy rain," Leister said.

Japan disaster July 12

Damaged houses and a mud-covered road are seen in the aftermath of heavy rains in Hiroshima, southwestern Japan, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Haruka Nuga)

The rain shattered records ranging from one-hour amounts to three-day totals.

The 84.5 mm (3.33 inches) that poured down in one hour on Friday in Ureshino broke the previous one-hour rain record from June 19, 2008. Mt. Ontakeyama in Nagano Prefecture topped the new records list for three-day rainfall totals with 655.5 mm (25.81 inches).

Numerous damaged bridges, roads and railroad tracks are making it difficult for residents to receive supplies and much-needed aid.

More than 100 points along the train tracks that run through western Japan have suffered damage, mostly due to landslides. The Japan Times stated that many of the lines affected by landslides are completely covered. There have been 619 landslides or other sediment disasters in total.

While the peak of the heat is expected to have passed, warm and humid conditions can still put a strain on flood victims and cleanup crews later in the week. There may also be a slight uptick in widely separated showers and thunderstorms during this time.

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