Over 100 people are dead amid unprecedented flooding in Japan

At least 119 people have died as of Monday with search and rescue operations still underway.

OKAYAMA, JAPAN - JULY 08: Soldiers ferry people to safety following heavy flooding, on July 8, 2018 in Kurashiki near Okayama, Japan. CREDIT: Carl Court/Getty Images
OKAYAMA, JAPAN - JULY 08: Soldiers ferry people to safety following heavy flooding, on July 8, 2018 in Kurashiki near Okayama, Japan. CREDIT: Carl Court/Getty Images

Raging floods in Japan have killed over 100 people and sparked mass-evacuation orders for several million residents of the island nation. The unprecedented natural disaster has devastated much of Japan’s western region and left the country reeling.

On Monday, heavy rains finally let up in Japan following days of torrential downpour. At least 119 people are dead from flooding and landslides, with tens of thousands still missing and search and rescue operations now underway, the Japan Times reported.

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Around 23,000 people are currently in evacuation centers after fleeing the historic deluge and 73,000 disaster response workers have been recruited to assist in rescue efforts.

Western Japan has received three times the rainfall it usually gets for the entire month of July, the BBC reported. One weather official noted that the region has “never experienced this kind of rain before.”

The flooding initially began last week as Super Typhoon Maria bore down on the country. Flash floods soon followed, along with landslides that swept away cars, buildings, and people. Phone lines and electricity generators also took a beating, as did water sources and other basic necessities.

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In the city of Kurashiki, 500,000 people endured the worst of the flooding, with some forced to climb to the roof of a hospital to await rescue over the weekend. Two hours away, in Hiroshima, residents watched their houses wash away amid the downpour.

Areas impacted by the flooding in Japan. CREDIT: Google Maps
Areas impacted by the flooding in Japan. CREDIT: Google Maps

According to the Japan Times, some 267,000 homes had suffered water outages in at least 11 government districts, or prefectures, throughout the region by the conclusion of the weekend. At one point during the flooding, evacuation orders were given for nearly 6 million people across 19 prefectures.

During a meeting with relief workers, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged that the floods have driven home the need for Japan to shore up its disaster response procedures and improve its evacuation centers. But for now, the government is focusing on working closely with local counterparts in an effort to save lives.

“We will unite and move swiftly to deliver those necessities to the disaster victims by coordinating closely with local government,” Abe said.

The prime minister had planned to depart for Europe and the Middle East, but those plans reportedly have been canceled. Instead, Abe will reportedly visit impacted areas, in a show of support amid continuing rescue efforts.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency cautioned that landslides and flooding would continue to pose a risk to residents, even as rains abated on Monday. Helicopters and boats are being used to rescue people still trapped by flooding in areas like Okayama Prefecture, where Kurashiki is located. Around 1,000 people in that area are believed to be trapped on the roofs of submerged buildings.

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Super Typhoon Maria is now headed towards northern Taiwan, where it is expected to hit on Tuesday. It is unclear whether the storm will make direct landfall, but residents are being advised to take precautionary measures.

Historic flooding across Japan has coincided with dramatic climate events around the world. Algeria appears to have seen the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Africa last week after one day topped 124.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Record-breaking heat has also been recorded across North America, resulting in more than a dozen deaths with upwards of 80 million people under heat advisories at one point last week.

Fires across the western United States are raging in a number of states, including California and Colorado. This summer also has seen around 60 wildfires break out in the region,  following the devastation of last year’s historic wildfire season in California.