Japan, hit by torrential rains, orders over one million to evacuate

A pedestrian walks through heavy rain in Kirishima, Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, July 3, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. THIS IMAGE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY, AN UNPROCESSED VERSION HAS BEEN PROVIDED SEPARATELY.

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan ordered more than one million people on the southernmost island of Kyushu to take shelter in evacuation centers and other safe areas on Wednesday as heavy rains triggered small landslides and threatened to cause widespread flooding.

Some parts of southern Kyushu have received over 1,000 mm (39.4 inches) of rain since Friday, about as much as usually falls in the whole month of July, broadcaster NHK said.

The Futami River is swollen due to heavy rain in Yatsushiro, Kumamoto Prefecture, southwestern Japan, July 3, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

Forecasters expect as much as 300 mm more rainfall in some areas by Thursday evening.

Evacuation orders were issued for 1.1 million residents of Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures at the southern tip of Kyushu, NHK said. Some 930,000 more were advised to leave.

Only some 3,500 people had evacuated as of 4:00 p.m. (0700 GMT), according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

“I live alone next to a river, and it’s scary to think of water rising,” one woman in an evacuation center told NHK. Another person said the volume of rainfall was “terrible”.

Television footage showed rivers filled with fast-moving brown water, but none had overflowed their banks as of Wednesday evening, although one low dike had broken and efforts were being made to repair it with sandbags.

Several small landslides were reported, including one that swept away two cars and damaged a pre-fabricated shed. A mother and child in another car swept away by a landslide sustained minor injuries.

“The rain was just flowing all over the rice fields,” one woman told NHK.

A Twitter user posted a photo of a road covered with brown water. “Whoa, the road I take to work is a mess,” the user wrote.

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said residents should “take steps to protect their lives, including early evacuation,” and he ordered the military to prepare for rescue operations.

Abe was criticized for the government’s slow response in July a year ago, when heavy rains triggered landslides and floods, killing more than 200 people in Japan’s worst weather disaster in 36 years.

(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, Linda Sieg, Yuri Harada and Elaine Lies; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Tom Hogue)

Death toll from Japan quake hits 44, power supply, Toyota output disrupted

Police officers and members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) carry a missing person found from an area damaged by a landslide caused by an earthquake in Atsuma town, Hokkaido, northern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 8, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

By Kaori Kaneko and Osamu Tsukimori

TOKYO (Reuters) – The death toll from a powerful earthquake in northern Japan last week rose to 44, with 660 injured, the government said on Monday, as electricity supply remained short and top automaker Toyota suspended work at most of its assembly plants.

The pre-dawn, 6.7-magnitude quake on Thursday temporarily paralyzed the island of Hokkaido, cutting off access by air and train and knocking out power to an island the size of Austria.

A family is seen at a gymnasium of elementary school, acting as an evacuation shelter at an area damaged by an earthquake in Sapporo, Hokkaido, northern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 7, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

A family is seen at a gymnasium of elementary school, acting as an evacuation shelter at an area damaged by an earthquake in Sapporo, Hokkaido, northern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 7, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

About 2,500 people remain in evacuation centers, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, after landslides buried houses and rain at the weekend loosened soil in a further threat to unstable houses.

Yoshihide Suga, the top government spokesman, said a team of about 40,000 Self-Defense Force troops, police, firefighters and others were working on clearing debris and other clean-up operations. There were no more missing residents, he said.

Power supply has been restored to nearly all customers in Hokkaido but trade minister Hiroshige Seko called on the island’s businesses and 5.3 million residents to use about 20 percent less energy to prevent further blackouts.

“It’s very important now for all residents, businesses, the government, and electricity suppliers to work together towards this goal of 20 percent energy-saving,” Seko told a news conference late on Sunday.

The government has no plans for rolling blackouts on Monday and Tuesday despite the continued closure of a fossil fuel-fired power plant that supplies about half the island’s power, he said.

With electricity restored, Toyota Motor Corp said on Monday its parts factory in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, which builds transmissions and other components, was preparing to resume production during the night shift.

However, the fallout has already spread beyond the island, with Toyota suspending production at 16 of its 18 domestic car assembly plants on Monday to assess its parts inventory. The automaker said it would gradually restore production from Tuesday, resuming work fully by Thursday.

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko, Maki Shiraki, Osamu Tsukimori; Writing by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Paul Tait)

Rescuers with dogs search for survivors after deadly Japan quake

A woman (C) wipes her tears after her missing father was found at an area damaged by a landslide caused by an earthquake in Atsuma town, Hokkaido, northern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 7, 2018. Kyodo/via REUTERS

By Kaori Kaneko and Malcolm Foster

TOKYO (Reuters) – Rescue workers with dogs searched for survivors on Friday in debris-strewn landslides caused by an earthquake in Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, as electricity was restored to just over half of households.

Public broadcaster NHK put the death toll at 12, with five people unresponsive. Earlier, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said 16 had died, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga later clarified in updated numbers that nine had been confirmed dead and nine others were in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest, a term typically used before death is confirmed.

Another 24 were still missing after Thursday’s pre-dawn magnitude-6.7 quake, the latest deadly natural disaster to hit Japan over the past two months, coming after typhoons, floods and a record-breaking heat wave.

Members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) search for survivors from a house damaged by a landslide caused by an earthquake in Atsuma town, Hokkaido, northern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 7, 2018. Kyodo/via REUTERS

Members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) search for survivors from a house damaged by a landslide caused by an earthquake in Atsuma town, Hokkaido, northern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 7, 2018. Kyodo/via REUTERS

Nearly 5,000 Hokkaido residents spent the night in evacuation centers where food was distributed in the morning.

“It was an anxious night with several aftershocks, but we took encouragement from being together and now we’re grateful for some food,” one woman told public broadcaster NHK.

Some 22,000 rescue workers had worked through the night to search for survivors, Abe told an emergency meeting on Friday. With rain forecast for Friday afternoon and Saturday, he urged people to be careful about loose soil that could cause unstable houses to collapse or further landslides.

“We will devote all our energy to saving lives,” Abe said.

As of Friday afternoon, Hokkaido Electric Power Co had restored power to 1.54 million of the island’s 2.95 million households. The utility aimed to raise that number to 2.4 million, or over 80 percent, by the end of Friday, industry minister Hiroshige Seko said.

Flights resumed from midday at Hokkaido’s main airport, New Chitose. The island, about the size of Austria and with 5.3 million people, is a popular tourist destination known for its mountains, lakes, rolling farmland and seafood.

Members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) search for survivors from a house damaged by a landslide caused by an earthquake in Atsuma town, Hokkaido, northern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 7, 2018. Kyodo/via REUTERS

Members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) search for survivors from a house damaged by a landslide caused by an earthquake in Atsuma town, Hokkaido, northern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 7, 2018. Kyodo/via REUTERS

LANDSLIDES WRECK HOMES

Soldiers in fatigues and orange-clad rescue workers searched for survivors, picking through debris on huge mounds of earth near the epicenter in Atsuma in southern Hokkaido. Aerial footage showed rescuers with dogs walking through the destruction.

All the missing people are from the Atsuma area, where dozens of landslides wrecked homes and other structures and left starkly barren hillsides.

“I just hope they can find him quickly,” one unidentified man told NHK as he watched the search for his missing neighbor.

The quake damaged the big Tomato-Atsuma plant, which normally supplies half of Hokkaido’s power and is located near the epicenter, forcing it to automatically shut down. That caused such instability in the grid that it tripped all other power stations on the island, causing a full blackout.

Hokkaido Electric was bringing other smaller plants back on line and also receiving some power transferred through undersea cables from the main island of Honshu.

Kansai International Airport in western Japan has been shut since Typhoon Jebi ripped through Osaka on Tuesday, although some domestic flights operated by Japan Airlines Co Ltd and ANA Holdings Inc’s low-cost carrier Peach Aviation resumed on Friday, the carriers said.

JR Hokkaido planned to resume bullet train operations from midday. It was also trying to resume other train services on Friday afternoon, a spokesman said.

Manufacturers were still affected by power outages.

Toyota Motor Corp’s Tomakomai factory, which makes transmissions and other parts, said operations remained suspended indefinitely until power was restored, a spokesman said.

Toppan Printing Co Ltd’s operations at a plant in Chitose, which makes food packages, would remain suspended until it regained power, a spokesman said.

The quake prompted Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to cancel two joint military exercises in Hokkaido, including the first-ever drill with Australian fighter jets, and a training exercise with the U.S. Marine Corps.

A soccer friendly between Japan and Chile scheduled for Friday in Hokkaido’s main city of Sapporo was also called off.

(Reporting by Chris Gallagher, Kaori Kaneko, Makiko Yamazaki and Osamu Tsukimori; Writing by Malcolm Foster and Chris Gallagher; Editing by Paul Tait and Christopher Cushing)

Japan struggles to restore water to flood-hit towns

Local residents try to clear mud and debris at a flood affected area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

By Kiyoshi Takenaka and Mari Saito

KURASHIKI, Japan (Reuters) – Municipal workers in western Japan struggled on Friday to restore water supplies a week after floods caused by a record downpour killed more than 200 people in the worst such disaster in 36 years.

Communities that grappled with rising floodwaters last week now find themselves battling scorching summer temperatures well above 30 degrees Celsius (86°F), as foul-smelling garbage piles up in mud-splattered streets.

“We need the water supply back,” said Hiroshi Oka, 40, a resident helping to clean up the Mabi district in one of the hardest-hit areas, the city of Kurashiki, where more than 200,000 households have gone without water for a week.

“What we are getting is a thin stream of water, and we can’t flush toilets or wash our hands,” he added, standing over a 20-liter (4.4-gallon) plastic tank that was only partly filled after almost four hours of waiting.

Water has been restored to some parts of the district, a city official told Reuters, but he did not know when normal operations would resume, as engineers were trying to locate pipeline ruptures.

More than 70,000 military, police and firefighters have fanned out to tackle the aftermath of the floods. There have been 204 deaths, the government said, with dozens missing.

Large piles of tatami straw mats, chairs and bookcases could be seen all over Mabi. The smell of leaked gasoline, mixed with a sour smell of mud and debris, filled the air.

The weather has fueled concerns that residents, many still in temporary evacuation centers, may suffer heat stroke or illness as hygiene levels deteriorate.

Shizuo Yoshimoto, a doctor making the rounds at evacuation centers, said an urgent challenge was to bring necessary drugs to patients with diabetes and high blood pressure who were forced from their homes or whose clinics are closed.

“There are quite a few cases where patients are unable to get a hold of drugs,” he said. “So one issue is how to maintain treatment for those with chronic illness. Another is acute illness, as heatstroke is on the rise.”

A submerged car is seen in a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

A submerged car is seen in a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Public broadcaster NHK has spread advice on coping with high temperatures and maintain hygiene, such as a video tutorial on how to make a diaper from a towel and plastic shopping bag.

More than 70,000 military, police and firefighters have fanned out to help with the rescue operation.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government spokesman, urged people in flood-hit areas to guard against thunderstorms.

“People still need to be aware of the possibility of further landslides,” he told reporters.

Severe weather has increasingly battered Japan in recent years, including similar floods last year that killed dozens of people, raising questions about the impact of global warming.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who canceled a scheduled overseas trip to deal with the rescue effort, visited Kurashiki on Thursday, and said he aimed to visit other flood-damaged areas on Friday and over the weekend.

(Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Writing by Tim Kelly and Elaine Lies; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Philippines prepares for three-month-long volcano emergency

Soldiers and civilians prepare relief goods to be distributed to evacuees who are affected by the eruption of Mount Mayon volcano, in Legazpi city, Albay province, Philippines January 26, 2018. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

By Ronn Bautista and Roli Ng

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines (Reuters) – The Philippines is bracing for a possible three-month-long emergency in areas around an erupting volcano, which has already displaced more than 81,000 and led to overcrowded temporary shelters, the disaster agency said on Friday.

Mount Mayon in central Albay province remained at alert level 4, a notch below the highest level, as it continued to spew lava, ash and other superheated material, volcanologists said.

“We’re gearing up for three months” of emergency, said Romina Marasigan, spokeswoman of the country’s disaster agency, citing similar situations during previous eruptions of the 2,462-metre (8,077-foot) volcano.

Displaced families may need to stay in evacuation centres for that long, she said.

Food and other supplies remain adequate but concerns are growing over health and hygiene conditions at all the 69 temporary shelters away from the danger zone.

Respiratory illnesses are possible because of the series of ash falls, she said.

“We remain on red alert,” Marasigan told a media briefing, adding that 69,672 evacuees were housed in schools while nearly 12,000 took shelter in tents or went to relatives in more secure locations.

Health workers are giving free check-ups and medicine to elderly women and children in evacuation centres grappling with a sanitation shortage.

“The province is doing everything to close the gaps for these toilet facilities,” said Nestor Santiago, assistant secretary at the health ministry.

The number of cancelled flights has risen to 97, the disaster agency said.

Volcanologists said there were seven more episodes of intense but sporadic lava fountaining at the crater lasting several minutes during a 21-hour period from Thursday morning.

The lava fountains, shooting up between 150 m. (492 ft) and 500 m. (1,640 ft), generated ash plumes that spurted as high as 3 km (1.8 miles) above the crater, they said.

Despite the warnings, some residents have refused to abandon the danger zone, with farmers worrying about leaving crops and cattle unattended, while others split their time between homes and evacuation centres they say are crowded and uncomfortable.

Mayla Miraflor has a vehicle loaded and ready to flee if Mayon rages unchecked.

“We have this jeep when we need to run,” said Miraflor, who has eight children. “This is what we’ll use when the time comes. We will leave as soon as possible.”

(Writing by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty and Clarence Fernandez)

Landslides kill 26 in storm-hit Philippine province

A general view shows search, retrieval, and relief operations ongoing at the flooded areas at Tzu Chi Village in Barangay Liloan, Phillipines, December 17, 2017 in this picture obtained from social media. ORMOC CITY POLICE OFFICE/via REUTERS

MANILA (Reuters) – At least 26 people were killed while several residents were missing in an island province in central Philippines after tropical storm Kai-tak brought heavy rains that triggered landslides, local authorities and media said on Sunday.

Kai-tak cut power supplies in many areas, forced the cancellation of several flights, stranded more than 15,000 people in various ports in the region and prompted nearly 88,000 people to seek shelter in evacuation centers.

An aerial shot shows an impassable Caraycaray Bridge after it was destroyed when Typhoon Kai-tak, locally name Urduja, ravaged Biliran Province, Philippines December 18, 2017. Malacanang Presidential Photo/Handout via REUTERS

An aerial shot shows an impassable Caraycaray Bridge after it was destroyed when Typhoon Kai-tak, locally name Urduja, ravaged Biliran Province, Philippines December 18, 2017. Malacanang Presidential Photo/Handout via REUTERS

The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office of Biliran island said 26 residents had died, but the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has yet to make any official announcement about fatalities.

Biliran Governor Gerardo Espina Jr confirmed the deaths in an interview with DZMM radio, with 23 people still missing, he said.

“We received reports of three deaths coming from the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) but these are for confirmation,” said NDRRMC spokeswoman Romina Marasigan. “We are still trying to check the others.”

Many areas were flooded, damaging crops and infrastructure.

Kai-tak has weakened to a tropical depression after barrelling through the eastern region of Visayas on Saturday, hitting islands and coastal towns such as Tacloban City where supertyphoon Haiyan claimed 8,000 lives in 2013.

Locally known as Urduja, Kai-tak was packing winds of 55 kilometers (31 miles) per hour with gusts of up to 80 km/h, according to a weather bureau bulletin issued at 2000 GMT.

(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz, editing by David Evans)

Northeast Australia braces for cyclone, thousands flee to higher ground

Residents fill sandbags in preparation for the arrival of Cyclone Debbie in the northern Australian town of Bowen, located south of Townsville. AAP/Sarah

By Tom Westbrook

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Thousands of Australians fled their homes on Monday as a powerful cyclone bore down on coastal towns in Queensland, where authorities urged 30,000 people to evacuate low lying areas most at risk from tidal surges and winds of up to 300 km per hour (185 mph).

Cyclone Debbie is expected to gather strength before making landfall in the northeast state early on Tuesday, with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology forecasting a category four storm, just one rung below the most dangerous wind speed level.

The growing alarm persuaded the state government on Monday to warn some 25,000 people living in parts of Mackay, a city 950 kilometers (590 miles) north of the state capital Brisbane, to head south to higher ground.

“Because of the intensity of this cyclone … we are very concerned, at the moment, at the prospect of a tidal surge in Mackay,” State Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters.

“It’s very clear that the time for people to move is now.”

The evacuation from Mackay would be the biggest seen in Australia since Cyclone Tracy struck the northern city of Darwin in 1974.

State authorities had already advised thousands of residents in two townships several hundred kilometers (miles) to the north of Mackay to leave their homes, though some were preparing to ride out the storm.

Television images showed residents in areas around Townsville, about 400km to the north of Mackay, protecting homes and shops with sandbags and plywood boards.

“We’ll just give it a go and rally together,” Cungulla resident Mike Kennedy told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Palaszczuk warned it would be the most powerful storm to hit the state since Cyclone Yasi destroyed homes, crops and devastating island resorts in 2011.

Authorities had set up 15 evacuation centers in safer parts of Mackay to provide shelter for those most endangered and least able to leave, Palaszczuk added.

Far to the north in Townsville, some 3,500 people had left, and authorities asked 2,000 more people in the town of Bowen to also quit their homes.

 

A sign can be seen painted on the fence of a home regarding the arrival of Cyclone Debbie in the northern Australian town of Bowen, located south of Townsville.

A sign can be seen painted on the fence of a home regarding the arrival of Cyclone Debbie in the northern Australian town of Bowen, located south of Townsville. AAP/Sarah Motherwell/via REUTERS

The Abbot Point coal terminal and ports at Mackay and Hay Point were closed until further notice, ports spokeswoman Fiona Cunningham said.

BHP Billiton suspended operations at its South Walker Creek coal mine, which is just to the south of the cyclone’s expected path. Glencore said it was halting operations at the Collinsville and Newlands coal mines.

Gales were already lashing the tourist resorts at Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands.

Townsville Airport was closed and airlines Qantas, Jetstar, Rex and Virgin Australia said they had canceled several flights to and from the region scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

Queensland produces some 95 percent of Australian bananas and while Cyclone Debbie is on course to miss the largest growing regions in the state’s far north, analysts said heavy rains and strong winds could cause significant crop damage.

The cyclone is expected to miss most of region’s coal mines, weather and mining data in Thomson Reuters Eikon shows, and no major dry-bulk vessels are in storm’s path.

Police blamed the wild weather associated with the storm for a traffic accident in which a 31-year-old female tourist died. Police did not give the woman’s nationality.

(Additional reporting by Byron Kaye, Sonali Paul, Colin Packham and Benjamin Weir. Editing by Jane Wardell and Simon Cameron-Moore)