Desperate rescue efforts as Japan rains toll continues to rise

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In this July 7, 2018 photo, a resident is rescued in a flooded area in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture, following heavy rain. Heavy rainfall hammered southern Japan for the third day, prompting new disaster warnings on Kyushu and Shikoku islands Sunday. (Shohei Miyano/Kyodo News via AP)
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A picture shows cars trapped in the mud after floods in Saka, Hiroshima prefecture on July 8, 2018. (AFP)
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This picture shows a collapsed road due to heavy rain in Higashihiroshima, Hiroshima prefecture on July 7, 2018.(AFP / JIJI PRESS)
Updated 09 July 2018
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Desperate rescue efforts as Japan rains toll continues to rise

KUMANO, Japan: Rescue workers, police and troops in Japan battled Monday to reach people feared trapped by devastating flooding and landslides after days of record rainfall killed at least 75 people.
As the rains finally began to ease, the government said several dozen more people remain missing.
And the death toll was expected to rise further, with local media reporting nearly 90 people killed and over 50 others unaccounted for.
The rains are the deadliest weather disaster in Japan since two typhoons that hit back-to-back in August and September 2011, killing nearly 100 people.
By Monday morning, the downpours had mostly ended across the worst-affected parts of central and western Japan, where entire villages were engulfed by flood waters or sudden landslides.
The meteorological agency downgraded its alerts for affected areas, but authorities warned that the risk of fresh landslides caused by rain-loosened earth remained high.
In the town of Kumano in Hiroshima prefecture, rescue workers were still digging through the dirt of a landslide that enveloped homes over the weekend, crushing some into little more than scrap wood.
Desperate family members of missing locals waited nearby for word of their relatives.
The nose of a white car was just visible underneath the entire top floor of one home that had been torn from the rest of a building and swept down a hillside.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned Sunday that rescue workers faced a “race against time” to reach people who remained trapped.


More than 54,000 emergency workers, police and troops have been deployed to help people, with the Self Defense Forces dispatching several planes to help airlift residents to safety.
In Okayama prefecture, rescue workers flew in helicopters over areas that are still under flood water and otherwise unreachable, looking for signs of life.
“As far as we could see from the helicopter, no-one is now waving for help,” a rescue worker from Kurashiki city told AFP.
Local government officials said pumping trucks were being deployed to help restore access to some of the worst-hit areas in the area, and with the rains stopped, water was starting to recede.
“Rescuers had to go by boat yesterday due to flooding but water is gradually receding today. If the water level drops low enough, they may be able to access hard-hit areas by road or on foot,” a spokeswoman at the area’s disaster control office said.
“It’s not raining today but we must stay alert for the possibility of landslides,” she told AFP.
At one point around five million people were told to evacuate, but the orders are not mandatory and many people remained at home, becoming trapped by rapidly rising water or sudden landslides.
In the town of Mihara, roads were transformed into muddy flowing rivers, with dirt piled up on either side as flood water gushed around the wheels of stranded cars.
“The area became an ocean,” 82-year-old resident Nobue Kakumoto told AFP Sunday, surveying the scene.
Several dozen Mihara residents ventured down from shelters on Sunday to inspect the damage to their homes in the Hongo district of the city, where many locals are rice farmers.
They found the flood waters had engulfed their rice fields and homes alike.
In the town of Saka, Eiichi Tsuiki opted to stay in his home, and survived only by moving to the top floor as flood waters rose, washing cars away outside.
“I’ve lived here for 40 years... I’ve never seen this before,” the 69-year-old oyster farmer told AFP.
Authorities said high temperatures were forecast for Monday, posing new challenges for the many people stuck in modestly equipped shelters with few possessions or damaged homes with no water or electricity.

Related


White House threatens to veto aid bill for migrant families

Updated 46 min 11 sec ago
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White House threatens to veto aid bill for migrant families

  • Hispanic and liberal Democrats press House leaders to add provisions to the legislation strengthening protections for migrant children
  • Many House Democrats say the Senate version’s provisions aimed at helping migrant children are not strong enough

WASHINGTON: The White House is threatening to veto a $4.5 billion House bill aimed at improving the treatment of migrant families detained after crossing the US southern border, saying the measure would hamstring the administration’s border security efforts and raising fresh questions about the legislation’s fate.
The warning came as Hispanic and liberal Democrats press House leaders to add provisions to the legislation strengthening protections for migrant children, changes that might make the measure even less palatable to President Donald Trump. Though revisions are possible, House leaders are still hoping for approval as early as Tuesday.
The Senate planned to vote this week on similar legislation that has bipartisan backing, but many House Democrats say the Senate version’s provisions aimed at helping migrant children are not strong enough. House Democrats seeking changes met late Monday with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“Right now, the goal is really to stop — one death is just too much,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., as he left that meeting.
Many children detained entering the US from Mexico have been held under harsh conditions, and Customs and Border Protection Chief Operating Officer John Sanders told The Associated Press last week that children have died after being in the agency’s care. He said Border Patrol stations are holding 15,000 people — more than triple their maximum capacity of 4,000.
Congress plans to leave Washington in a few days for a weeklong July 4 recess. While lawmakers don’t want to depart without acting on the legislation for fear of being accused of not responding to humanitarian problems at the border, it seems unlikely that Congress would have time to send a House-Senate compromise to Trump by week’s end.
In a letter Monday threatening the veto, White House officials told lawmakers they objected that the House package lacked money for beds the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency needs to let it detain more migrants. Officials also complained in the letter that the bill had no money to toughen border security, including funds for building Trump’s proposed border wall.
“Because this bill does not provide adequate funding to meet the current crisis, and because it contains partisan provisions designed to hamstring the Administration’s border enforcement efforts, the Administration opposes its passage,” the letter said.
Several Democrats said some language they were seeking could end up in separate legislation. Several said changes might include provisions aimed at ensuring that detained children are treated humanely.
“We’ve got lives at stake,” said Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif. He said the US has been “the gold standard” for treating refugees fleeing dangerous countries, “and I don’t think we should compromise that at all.”
The meeting may have helped ease Democratic complaints. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., told reporters before the meeting that she would oppose the bill but left the door open afterward, saying, “I oppose the situation we’re in, but my main goal is to keep kids from dying.”
Much of the legislation’s money would help care for migrants at a time when federal officials say their agencies have been overwhelmed by the influx of migrants and are running out of funds.
The back-and-forth on the spending measure came as Congress’ top Democrats criticized Trump for threatening coast-to-coast deportations of migrants.
Over the weekend, Trump tweeted that he would give Congress two weeks to solve “the Asylum and Loopholes problems” along the border with Mexico. “If not, Deportations start!” he tweeted.
The president had earlier warned that there would soon be a nationwide sweep aimed at “millions” of people living illegally in the US, including families. The sweeps were supposed to begin Sunday, but Trump said he postponed them.
Pelosi, D-Calif., said the threatened raids were “appalling” when she was asked about them at an immigration event Monday in Queens, New York.
“It is outside the circle of civilized human behavior, just kicking down doors, splitting up families and the rest of that in addition to the injustices that are happening at the border,” she said.
On the Senate floor, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., described Trump’s “chilling, nasty, obnoxious threats” and said the president “seems far more comfortable terrorizing immigrant families” than addressing immigration problems.
“I mean, my God, to threaten separating children from their parents as a bargaining chip? That’s the very definition of callousness,” Schumer said.
It is not clear exactly what Trump, who has started his 2020 re-election bid, means regarding asylum and loophole changes. He’s long been trying to restrict the numbers of people being allowed to enter the US after claiming asylum and impose other restrictions, a path he’s followed since he began his quest for president years ago. His threatened deportations came as authorities have been overwhelmed by a huge increase of migrants crossing the border into the US in recent months.
For years, Democrats and Republicans have unable to find middle ground on immigration that can pass Congress. It seems unlikely they will suddenly find a solution within two weeks.