Devastating floods hit Japan

Photo credit: Reuters / Kyodo.

By Anders Lorenzen

In scenes which bring back memories of the devastating tsunami disaster in Japan in 2011, which was triggered by an underwater earthquake and caused a nuclear accident which is still affecting the country, a devastating flood has hit the island nation displacing more than 100,000 people.

On Friday last week, unprecedented rain in Japan unleashed heavy floods, that tore houses from their foundations, uprooted trees and forced more than 100,000 people from their homes.

This was caused by the tropical storm, Etau, which swept across Japan’s main island, Honshu, causing some areas to receive the double amount of rainfall expected for September in just 48 hours, and as a result some rivers burst their banks.

While no deaths has been reported so far, NHK national television said that a 63-year old woman was missing in a landslide that hit her home, while a man in his 70s in the town of Joso, 56 km (35 miles) north of Tokyo, was feared trapped when water engulfed his home. It is believed that at least 25 people are missing and 100 still awaiting rescue.

There has been much emphasis in Japan since 2011 on disaster prevention ,following the tsunami and earthquake which killed nearly 20,000 people. Back then the government was criticized for a slow response, which is something the new government lead by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is keen to avoid.

It’s been reported that Etau caused up to 30 landslides. And another 860,000 people were still being advised to evacuate voluntarily, most of them in the Greater Tokyo area. It is a sheer miracle that there so far have been so few casualties , as dramatic pictures show helicopters airlifting people from flooded areas, surrounded by cars almost being swept up by the water. Other dramatic pictures have seen the floods uprooting and dragging away houses (see above).
Scientists can’t associate this storm directly to climate change. But they do believe that with climate change we will a see an increase in extreme weather events like the Japan floods. As the climate warms ,these extremes will become more unpredictable and more unevenly spread.

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