Japan experiences worst floods in decades

Japan experiences worst floods in decades

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

At least 179 people have died and 70 are still missing in Japan after the country experienced the worst floods in decades. More than 8.63 million people across 23 prefectures have been ordered to evacuate their homes in central and western Japan as torrential rains have led to widespread floods and landslides. The prefectures of Okayama, Hiroshima, and Yamaguchi suffered the most severe impacts.

Water and power have been cut off in many areas leaving thousands of homes without supply. The limited access to water is proving especially difficult to cope with, as temperatures in some areas of the country are rising to scorching 35C. Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government was spending two billion yen (£13 million) to speed up supply deliveries and other support for evacuation centres and residents.

According to remotely sensed data from NASA the areas with the most precipitation saw a rainfall accumulation of over 800mm from 3 a.m. (Japan Standard Time) on July 2 to 3 a.m. on July 9. However, local rainfall amounts can be significantly higher when measured from the ground.

The map above shows rainfall accumulation from 3 a.m. (Japan Standard Time) on July 2 to 3 a.m. on July 9, 2018. (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

Teruo Sasai, resident of Kurashiki in Okayama, said “The floodwaters were up over my house, probably reaching 4 or 5 meters, up past the roof all the way to the TV antenna. Thankfully, I was OK and nobody in this neighborhood was severely injured.”

As rains started to dissipate on Sunday, search and rescue was rolled out on a massive scale with 70,000 workers deployed for relief efforts.

While it is too soon to attribute the event to climate change with certainty, it is worth noting that a 2012 study by the Japanese government found that the number of days with 100 millimetres or more of precipitation had been increasing since the 1970s. The study also found an “increasing risk of heavy-rain induced disasters” due to climate change.


Cover photo by Disaster Prevention Promotion Office, Planning Department, Geographical Survey Institute/Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0): Image from 2017 when Akatani River was overflowed by the Northern Kyūshū Heavy Rain in Asakura City, Fukuoka Prefecture on July 7.

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