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Japan floods: Death toll rises to 200 as UN offers assistance

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A residential area is seen on July 9 in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, submerged following torrential rains that hit a wide area of western Japan. 

LANDSLIDES and flooding caused by torrential rain in Japan have killed 200 people in what has become one of the deadliest natural disasters to hit the country since the earthquake and tsunami of 2011.

According to CNN, around 21 people are unaccounted for since the downpour that began late last week, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Thursday.

“The government will push for the swift delivery of support to the disaster victims,” Suga said. “We are tackling this with utmost effort.”

Some 75,000 responders have been deployed to the area for search and rescue operations. Suga warned that thunderstorms and landslides in the coming hours could pose further danger.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Okayama Prefecture Wednesday morning surveying the damage in one of the hardest-hit areas. He cancelled a scheduled trip to Europe and the Mideast to focus on disaster relief efforts.

Abe viewed the damage from above in a helicopter, viewing what he called the “scars of the terrible damage of heavy rain” and visited an evacuation centre.

He said the government had been making “every effort to deal with this crisis since the disaster occurred.”

Abe then visited the devastated city of Kurashiki and met with the governor of Okayama.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres offered his condolences and commended Japan’s response in a letter to Abe, according to Guterres’ spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.

Guterres also said the UN was ready to provide support if Tokyo requested it.

The rain started to pour on Thursday and picked up Friday. Over the weekend, parts of Japan received between 300 to 500 millimetres (12 to 20 inches) of rain, with prefectures of Hiroshima, Okayama, and Hyogo inundated with more than 500 millimetres.

Some cities were completely inundated in a matter of hours.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported about 364 millimetres (14.3 inches) of rain fell between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. Sunday in Uwajima — approximately 1.5 times the average monthly rainfall for July.

In Sukumo City in Kochi prefecture, 263 millimetres (10.3 inches) of rain fell in two hours, NHK said.

The flooding was particularly harsh because much of the rain fell over a mountainous region and then funnelled down, causing heavy flash flooding.

Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes, and those unable to leave took shelter on rooftops as the streets filled with water.

The post Japan floods: Death toll rises to 200 as UN offers assistance appeared first on Tribune.

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