Japan flood aftermath: residents face scorching temperatures, water shortage

Daily temperatures above 30 Celsius and high humidity in the aftermath of the flood is taking a toll on residents and rescue workers in Japan. (Reuters)
Updated 12 July 2018
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Japan flood aftermath: residents face scorching temperatures, water shortage

KURASHIKI: Intense heat and water shortages raised fears of disease outbreaks in flood-hit western Japan on Thursday as the death toll from the worst weather disaster in 36 years neared 200.
More than 200,000 households had no water a week after torrential rains caused floods and set off landslides across western Japan, bringing death and destruction to decades-old communities built on mountain slopes and flood plains.
The death toll rose to 195, with several dozen people still missing, the government said on Thursday.
With daily temperatures above 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) and high humidity, life in school gymnasiums and other evacuation centers, where families spread out on mats on the floors, began to take a toll.
Television footage showed one elderly woman trying to sleep by kneeling with her upper body on the seat of a folding chair, arms over her eyes to keep out the light.
With few portable fans in the evacuation centers, many survivors tried to cool themselves with paper fans.
The limited water supply meant that people are not getting enough fluids and in danger of suffering from heatstroke, authorities said. People are also reluctant to use what water they do have to wash their hands, raising fears of epidemics.
“Without water, we can’t really clean anything up. We can’t wash anything,” one man told NHK television.
The government has sent water trucks to the disaster area, but supplies remain limited.
More than 70,000 military, police and firefighters toiled through the debris in a grim search for the missing.
Some teams shoveled dirt into sacks and piled the bags into trucks. Others used diggers and chainsaws to work through landslides and splintered buildings.
Many areas were buried deep in mud that smelled like sewage and had hardened in the heat, making the search more difficult.
Disasters set off by torrential rains have become more frequent in Japan, perhaps due to global warming, experts say. Dozens of people died after similar rains caused flooding around the same time last year.
“It’s an undeniable fact that this sort of disaster due to torrential, unprecedented rain is becoming more frequent in recent years,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference in Tokyo.
“Preserving the lives and peaceful existence of our citizens is the government’s biggest duty. We recognize that there’s a need to look into steps we can take to reduce the damage from disasters like this even a little bit,” he added.


‘Key issues unresolved’, UN chief warns climate talks

Updated 12 December 2018
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‘Key issues unresolved’, UN chief warns climate talks

KATOWICE, Poland: “Key political issues” deadlocking UN climate talks “remain unresolved,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday after an unscheduled stop at the troubled negotiations in Poland.
The fight against climate change is a “matter of life and death today,” he told ministers and delegates at the 195-nation UN forum tasked with beating back the threat of global warming, barely 48 hours before the meet in the coal town of Katowice was set to adjourn.
The two-week talks are tasked with breathing life into the 2015 Paris Agreement, which vows to cap global warming at “well under” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and funnel hundreds of billions of dollars to poor countries already feeling the sting of deadly storms, heatwaves and droughts made worse by climate change.
But efforts to elaborate a “rule book” for the Paris pact and to boost the carbon-cutting pledges of all nations have run aground, even as a barrage of scientific reports have warned that only immediate and radical measures can avert catastrophic climate impacts.
“The eyes of the world are upon us,” said Guterres, who had not planned to return to the talks after addressing the opening plenary 10 days ago.
“To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change,” he said.
“It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal.”
A major report called for by the UN climate body concluded in October that Earth’s rise in temperature must be capped even lower — at 1.5C — to avoid the danger of runaway warming.
But several countries at the talks, led by the United States and Saudi Arabia, have blocked efforts to endorse the report, which many developing countries see as essential.
“The IPCC report on 1.5C is the basis for all future action, on what we need to do,” Vanuatu Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu told AFP.
Endorsing the report’s findings at the conclusion of the UN forum “is a red line issue for us.”