Japan floods: Fears of disease outbreaks as death toll tops 200
July 20, 2020
Soaring temperatures and widespread water shortages in flood-hit areas of Japan have prompted fears of disease outbreaks, as the death toll topped 200.
More than 70,000 rescue workers are scouring through debris and mud in a bid to find people who are still missing following Japan’s worst weather disaster in 36 years.
Rainy skies have been replaced by daily temperatures above 30C and high humidity, with thousands of evacuees camping out in temporary shelters and on mats laid on the floor in school gymnasiums without air conditioning.
Rescue efforts have been hampered by high temperatures causing the mud to harden, while nearly 240,000 homes were also still without water a week after torrential rains deluged central and southwestern Japan.
Last week’s record downpours caused widespread landslides, flooding and burst riverbanks, forcing more than two million residents across 29 prefectures to flee their homes and leaving tens of thousands without water and electricity.
Top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said on Friday that the toll was now 204 dead, with 28 people still missing.
As rescue efforts continued, water shortages also impacted local hospitals, with reports of delayed surgeries and dialysis patients having to be transferred in order to undergo treatment.
The government sent trucks of water to the disaster areas, but fears were growing that survivors were not receiving enough fluids in the soaring summer heat due to tight supplies.
“Without water, we can’t really clean anything up,” one man also told NHK, the public broadcaster. “We can’t wash anything.”
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met on Friday with survivors for the second time this week. Television footage showed him visiting Seiyo in Ehime prefecture, where he visited homes damaged in the disaster and talked to residents trying to clean up.
Meanwhile, the Japanese government acknowledged a rise in natural disasters triggered by torrential rains and pledged to take steps to minimise damage in future incidents.
Around the same time last year, similarly heavy rains killed dozens of people after causing widespread regional flooding.
“It’s an undeniable fact that this sort of disaster due to torrential, unprecedented rain is becoming more frequent in recent years,” Mr Suga told reporters in Tokyo.
“Preserving the lives and peaceful existence of our citizens is the government’s biggest duty. We recognise that there’s a need to look into steps we can take to reduce the damage from disasters like this even a little bit.”