Japanese deluge leads to flooding and landslides

Monday 16th Jul 2012 by theWeather Club

Image: Rudolf Ammann

Residents of Japan's flood-hit areas are being allowed to return home after record rainfall left at least 26 people dead. Many people were unable to escape after evacuation orders were given, and the Japanese defence force has been airlifting supplies to those trapped in mountainous areas.

The flooding hit after some areas were deluged by a year's worth of rain over the weekend, leading to raging torrents of water, flooding and a series of deadly landslides. The heavy rain has also caused flooding in parts of Japan's historic capital, Kyoto, on the main island of Honshu. In this ancient city, the intensity of the rainfall exceeded 90mm (3.5in) per hour - a condition in which rain cascades in such torrents that seeing ahead becomes impossible. Officials say 26 people were known to have died in Kumamoto, Oita and Fukuoka prefectures, most of the casualties coming from among the elderly in their 70s and 80s.

The evacuation orders issued for a quarter of a million people were lifted in most areas on Sunday as the rain stopped allowing many people to return to their homes. However even as some of the water subsided, homes and farms on the southern island of Kyushu, were still in need of food shipments.

In Fukuoka prefecture alone, around 190,000 people from 65,000 households were issued the evacuation order, with the entire populations of the cities of Yanagawa, Yame and Miyama being told to leave their homes. With the waters now receding officials there estimate damage the damage to extend to more than 4,300 homes, 800 roads and 20 bridges.

Returning residents have started to clean up the mud and debris from their homes, while the authorities deal with felled trees and debris on the roads. "We are stepping up efforts to remove rubble as roads remain covered with mud at many points," Masatatsu Minoda, an official from Kumamoto prefecture, was quoted as saying. "Workers are engaged in clean-up efforts while taking care against possible further landslides. We may have to stop working if it rains heavily again."