Tokyo | Tens of thousands of rescuers were still mobilized Monday in areas of southwestern Japan ravaged by floods and landslides this weekend, which left dozens dead according to a provisional toll.
Nineteen people died and 18 others are on “cardiopulmonary arrest”, 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.
“Rescuers continue their search tirelessly,” a spokesman for the Kumamoto region of Kyushu island said Monday when record rains fell early Saturday morning, causing rivers to overflow and flooding. low-lying areas.
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 hardest hit areas, residents wrote the words “rice, water, SOS” on the ground, while others waved towels to call for help, according to helicopter footage.
“We have received calls from people who want to leave their homes but who cannot do it on their own,” said a firefighter in the nearby Kagoshima area interviewed by AFP on Monday.
Certain roads were still submerged, making it impossible to circulate there, added this fireman, explaining that his team had been able to rescue 11 people so far with inflatable boats.
Precautions against Covid-19
In a center for the elderly in the Kumamoto region, 14 people are presumed to have been drowned on Saturday due to the flooding of the ground floor by a flooded river, which prevented residents in wheelchairs from taking refuge on the upper floors superiors.
Emergency services and local residents managed to rescue around 50 residents and employees of this nursing home with lifeboats.
Heavy rains are still expected in the region until Tuesday morning. The Japanese Meteorological Agency has recommended hundreds of thousands of residents of Kumamoto and Kagoshima prefectures to vacate their homes.
“This is such a disaster,” said NHK Hirotoshi Nishi, a disaster-stricken resident removing debris from his muddy house, on public television.
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 physical distance, and IDPs 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 disaster 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.
Two years ago at the same time, more than 200 people died in terrible floods in the same region of Kyushu.