Japan PM meets rain disaster survivors, pledges more aid

Japan PM meets rain disaster survivors, pledges more aid

Japan PM visits disaster area
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Ehime Prefecture Governor Tokihiro Nakamura offer a silent prayer for disaster victims in Seiyo City, Ehime Prefecture on Jul 13, 2018. (Photo: AFP/JAPAN POOL VIA JIJI PRESS)

TOKYO: Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday (Jul 13) met with survivors of devastating rains that killed at least 204 people in flash flooding and landslides, as the government pledged more aid.

The toll from the record rainfall has continued to rise, as rescue workers dig through the debris and find the remains of dozens of people reported missing.

Top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Friday that the toll was now 204 dead, with 28 people still missing.

Around 73,000 rescue workers including police and troops "are working as hard as they can, with the priority on saving lives", he said.

Abe, who earlier this week cancelled a foreign tour, travelled for a second time to areas hit by the disaster.

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.

The toll from the record rainfall has continued to rise, as rescue workers dig through the debris
The toll from the record rainfall has continued to rise, as rescue workers dig through the debris AFP/JIJI PRESS

On Friday morning, meeting with the government's taskforce on the disaster, Abe pledged new assistance.

The government has already said it will tap around US$18 million in reserve funds from this year's budget, and Abe said US$312 million in tax grants would be disbursed early to local governments in affected areas.

"I want local governments in disaster-hit areas to do all they can for emergency assistance and reconstruction, without hesitating to spend," he said.

READ: Japan flood: One week on, the wait for news no family wants to hear

The financial cost of the disaster is still being calculated, but the agriculture ministry said Friday it has assessed losses of at least US$207 million.

That figure is likely to rise further as clean-up operations continue and the scale of the damage becomes clear.

"It could be the tip of the iceberg, as we are still unable to go and inspect fields," ministry official Yasuhisa Hamanaka said.

Japan police in rescue operation
Members of a police rescue team search for missing people in Sakacho, Hiroshima Prefecture on Jul 13, 2018. (Photo: AFP/ JIJI PRESS)

Agriculture Minister Ken Saito said the cost of some vegetables had already shot up between 10 to 30 per cent and that the ministry would be "closely monitoring" price hikes.

The size of the toll in what is now Japan's worst weather-related disaster in over three decades has prompted questions about whether authorities were properly prepared and acted effectively.

READ: 'I watched my neighbour get swept away': Japan flood survivors recall horrors amid search for survivors

The English-language Japan Times daily noted that the flooding that engulfed one district of Kurashiki in Okayama Prefecture was in line with forecasts from local authorities.

But "evacuation orders were issued by the city to residents in some areas of the district just minutes before the breach of the embankment took place", the newspaper said in an editorial.

"We need to scrutinise our defences against such disasters, identify the weak points and fix them."


Source: AFP/na

Bookmark