Tens of thousands of rescuers were still mobilized Monday, July 6, on the island of Kyushu, in Japan, ravaged by floods and landslides this weekend. Nineteen people died and 18 others are in " heart failure ", a term used in Japan before the official statement of death by a doctor, government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said on Monday to the press. Thirteen people were also still missing, while around 800 others were rescued, he added.
"The rescuers continue their search tirelessly"A spokesman for the Kumamoto region of Kyushu Island, where record rains fell early Saturday morning, caused rivers to overflow and flood low-lying areas, said Monday.
"Rice, water, SOS"
Roads and bridges have been washed away by floods, cutting off the most isolated communities from the rest of the world. In one of the most affected areas, residents wrote the words "Rice, water, SOS" on the ground, while others were waving towels to call for help, according to helicopter images.
In addition to the persistent bad weather, the rescue operations were complicated by the risks of new contaminations by the coronavirus. Partitions were installed in evacuation centers to maintain a physical distance between the displaced, who were called upon to wash their hands frequently and wear masks.
Japan has so far been relatively spared from the global pandemic, with around 1,000 deaths and fewer than 20,000 cases of infection since the start of the health crisis. Most of the new infections today are in Tokyo.
More than 4,600 households in the affected areas were still without electricity on Monday morning, and 7,000 households still lacked access to clean water, Suga said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on Sunday the mobilization of 40,000 police, firefighters, coast guards and members of the Japanese Self-Defense Force to assist the victims and search for those still missing.
The rainy season is in full swing in the Japanese archipelago at this time, a period of high risk for floods, mudslides and landslides. Torrential rains are expected to continue to hit the region, where up to 250 mm of precipitation is expected until Tuesday morning. The Japanese Meteorological Agency has called on hundreds of thousands of residents of Kumamoto and the neighboring Kagoshima region to vacate their homes.
In October 2019, floods due to the passage of typhoon Hagibis left 90 dead. Two years ago at the same time, more than 200 people died in terrible floods in the same region of Kyushu.