On September 9, Typhoon Etau hit the eastern zone of Japan, letting down rain of a whopping 60 centimeters, which is more than double the amount of rainfall that normally falls during the entire month.
The tropical storm caused the Kinugawa and Shibui rivers to overflow as much as 8 kilometers past their banks. 24 people have been reported to be missing, while at least 27 have been injured by the consequent flooding. Almost a million people in Tokyo and seven other prefectures of Japan have been advised to evacuate their homes as thousands already have. Evacuees were taken to local elementary and high schools, with the Japanese Red Cross providing mattresses, pillows, blankets, emergency kits and radios. Around 100 houses were flooded in Osaki City alone, forcing residents to climb to their roofs for safety before being rescued. As Hisako Sekimoto, a 62 year old woman recalled, “there was no time to escape…” and the only passage to safety was the upper floors. The flooding has also caused massive landslides in Japan, particularly in Joso City where the most dramatic amount of rain fell.
While this is not the first major flooding that Japan has encountered this year, with Typhoon Goni having hit the southern island of Japan, Kyushu, injuring 70 people, the rainfall experienced within the past few days was “unprecedented”, as Takuya Deshimaru, the chief forecaster at the Japan Meteorological Agency, claimed. Firefighters and members of Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force used boats and helicopters to rescue residents, and almost 6,000 emergency service and military personnel came to help with the rescue effort.
The flooding has also caused environmental concerns within the global community. The rain caused by Typhoon Etau is the most that the Fukushima prefecture has seen in the last 50 years, overwhelming the drainage pumps of the nuclear reactors and consequently spewing contaminated water into the ocean, according to a Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) spokesman.
While Typhoon Etau has moved out into the East Sea, the storm in Japan is far from over. According to Ken Moritsugu, the bureau chief of Japan’s Associated Press, the “river is flowing directly into one side into the eastern side of the city and as a result, it will be a while to get rid of the water,” while mountains may collect more precipitation, making it harder to drain the water and possibly causing more mudslides.
– Seiyeon Park (’17)