Update: One woman has died and at least 22 people are missing after heavy rains triggered landslides and caused rivers to flood in regions north of Tokyo on Thursday.
More than 100,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes as unprecedented rain unleashed heavy floods that tore houses from their foundations and uprooted trees. The Kinugawa River breached its banks in the city of Joso Ibaraki, flooding a residential area.
Twenty two people were missing and at least 21 were injured including six suffered heavy injuries. Helicopters hovering over swirling, muddy waters rescued many people from the roofs of their homes. A low-lying section of the town appeared to be completely submerged, with just a short section of elevated motorway visible above the water.
The flooding occurred hours after the weather agency issued severe weather warnings for Tochigi Prefecture then Ibaraki Prefecture in the morning. The Kinugawa River flooding affected the town of 65,000 residents 45 kilometers north-east of Tokyo.
“This is an unusual situation we have not experienced before. We are at a critical phase,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in an emergency meeting with his cabinet and urged rescue personnel to prevent the situation from deteriorating.
Japan has put heavy emphasis on disaster prevention since 2011 earthquake and tsunami killed nearly 20,000 people, and the government is keen to avoid the kind of criticism they faced then, for what was seen as a sluggish response.
Television footage showed people in Joso waving towels while waiting for help on the upper floors of homes engulfed in floods after the typhoon-driven rains caused overflowing of the water channels.
According to local media reports, the city of Joso received rainfall around 500 mm and the weather officials are expecting at least 200 mm more in parts of eastern Japan before the downpour stops on Friday. IMAGE/Reuters