Torrential rains kill at least 81 in western Japan

1 / 5
Local residents sit in a boat as they are rescued from a flooded area at a hospital in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 8, 2018. (REUTERS)
2 / 5
Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members use a boat to evacuate residents from a flooded area caused by heavy rains in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture, southwestern Japan, Saturday, July 7, 2018. (AP)
3 / 5
This picture shows a collapsed rode due to heavy rain in Iizuka city, Fukuoka prefecture on July 7, 2018. (AFP)
4 / 5
An emergency crew works at the site after a train derailed due to landslides caused by heavy rain in Karatsu city, Saga prefecture on July 7, 2018. (AFP)
5 / 5
Residents look at a flooded road in Hiroshima on July 7, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 09 July 2018

Torrential rains kill at least 81 in western Japan

  • Roads are blocked in some areas, where warnings were issued on landslides
  • Japan's government set up an emergency management centre at the prime minister's office and some 54,000 rescuers from the military

KURASHIKI, Japan: The death toll from torrential rain and landslides in western Japan rose to 81 people on Sunday, with dozens still missing after more than 2,000, temporarily stranded in the city of Kurashiki, were rescued.
Evacuation orders were in place for nearly 2 million people and landslide warnings were issued in many prefectures.
In hard-hit western Japan, emergency services and military personnel used helicopters and boats to rescue people from swollen rivers and buildings, including a hospital.
Scores of staff and patients, some still in their pajamas, were rescued from the isolated Mabi Memorial Hospital in boats rowed by members of Japan’s Self Defense Forces.
A city official said 170 patients and staff had been evacuated while public broadcaster NHK later said about 80 people were still stranded.
“I’m most grateful to the rescuers,” said Shigeyuki Asano, a 79-year-old patient who spent a night without electricity or water. “I feel so relieved that I am now liberated from such a bad-smelling, dark place.”
Kurashiki, with a population of just under 500,000, was among the hardest hit by rains that pounded many parts of western Japan, with the death toll exceeding the 77 killed in heavy rains and landslides in 2014 and the highest since a typhoon that killed 98 people in 2004.
Television footage showed a massive rescue operation, with 2,310 rescued in the city by evening, according to NHK, while search and rescue teams continued to look for others.
LANDSLIDES
The overall death toll from the rains in Japan rose to at least 81 on Sunday after floodwaters forced several million people from their homes, media reports and the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said.
Another 58 were missing, NHK said, and more rain was set to hit some areas for at least another day.
The rain set off landslides and flooded rivers, trapping many people in their houses or on rooftops.
“This is a situation of extreme danger,” an official at the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) told a news conference.
A three-year-old girl whose home was hit by a landslide in Hiroshima prefecture was found dead by a search team.
“It’s very painful,” said one elderly man watching nearby. “I have a granddaughter the same age. If it were her, I wouldn’t be able to stop crying.”
Japan’s government set up an emergency management center at the prime minister’s office and some 54,000 rescuers from the military, police and fire departments were dispatched across a wide swath of western and southwestern Japan.
’SUDDEN DISASTER’
“There are still many people missing and others in need of help, we are working against time,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Sunday morning.
Two sisters from an elementary school of just six pupils on the small island of Nuwa in Ehime prefecture were among the dead. The younger, a first-grader, was a star and the hope of the depopulated island, the principal told NHK.
“It was such a sudden disaster, I just cannot come to grips with it,” the principal said.
Emergency warnings for severe rain in 11 prefectures — the most since a new warning system was introduced in 2013 — had been lifted by evening, but adviseries for heavy rain and landslides remained in effect in many areas.
TV footage showed convenience stores with shelves mostly bare while elsewhere, residents lined up to receive water. Some 276,000 households were without water supply, Kyodo said.
Roads were closed and train services suspended in parts of western Japan while Shinkansen bullet train services resumed on a limited schedule after being suspended on Friday.
The rain began late last week as the remnants of a typhoon fed into a seasonal rainy front.
Automakers including Mazda Motor Corp. and Daihatsu Motor Co. suspended operations at several plants on Saturday and were to decide later on Sunday on plans for the coming week.
Electronics maker Panasonic Corp. said one plant in Okayama, western Japan, could not be reached due to road closures, although it had been closed for the weekend anyway. A decision about next week would be made on Monday, it said.


Militant attack on Afghan prison frees hundreds

Afghan security personnel in front of a prison gate after an attack by Daesh that had freed hundreds in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, on Monday. (AP)
Updated 5 min 53 sec ago

Militant attack on Afghan prison frees hundreds

  • The attack, reportedly by Daesh, took place hours before end of cease-fire

KABUL: Militants have stormed a prison in eastern Afghanistan and released hundreds of prisoners, officials said.

The attack on the main prison in Jalalabad, in Nangarhar province, where several hundred Daesh fighters have been detained, began on Sunday afternoon with a car bomb detonated at the entrance to the jail.
The attack came hours before the end of a three-day ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban, who immediately denied any involvement in the assault. Several Western media outlets reported that the Daesh had claimed responsibility.
The Nangarhar governor’s spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani, told Arab News that there was still gunfire on Monday morning, and that more than 20 civilians and personnel and three attackers have died in the fighting.
Two local security sources speaking on condition of anonymity said that nearly half of the prison’s 1,500 inmates managed to flee.
They said 20 assailants made their way into the prison and a number of explosions were heard from inside the jail.
Residents said one group of attackers was firing on the jail from a nearby building and they reported heavy and sustained exchanges of small fire.
According to Khogyani, most of the escapees have been caught. He gave no further details about the attack.
The assault comes amid official claims that Daesh leaders have been arrested or killed in recent months, notably in Nangarhar, which used to be the group’s bastion.
“This is a major embarrassment for the government, which every now and then claims to have wiped out or paralyzed the Daesh. The government needs to answer why such a high security lapse has happened,” analyst Shafiq Haqpal said.
The Eid Al-Adha ceasefire between the Taliban and Afghan government forces was a part of efforts to begin long-awaited peace talks following a US-Taliban agreement signed in Qatar in late February.
In accordance with the deal, the Taliban is releasing 1,000 Afghan troops in exchange for 5,000 militants held by President Ashraf Ghani’s government.
The process is near completion, but Kabul is refusing to free 400 remaining Taliban inmates, saying they have been behind “heinous crimes.”
After Eid prayers on Sunday, Ghani announced he would summon a traditional grand assembly, Loya Jirga, to help him decide whether the rest of Taliban prisoners should be freed.
The assembly is scheduled to start on Aug. 7. Loya Jirga has deep roots in Afghan history and tradition and is usually summoned during times of crisis or emergency.
The Taliban have voiced their opposition to the convocation of the jirga. Their Qatar-based spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, told TOLO News that Kabul’s decision would only complicate the peace process.
Afghan politicians are divided on the jirga announcement. Hamidullah Tokhi, a member of parliament from southern Zabul province, said: “The nation and parliament have deep doubts about Ghani’s goal for summoning the jirga to decide over the fate of 400 Taliban.
“All of the 4,500 Taliban already freed were involved in some sort of bloody attacks. Why did the government not ask for the jirga on the overall release of the Taliban?”
“Summoning the jirga now is a treason to this country and a clear blocking of the peace process,” he said.
Torek Farhadi, who served in the previous government as an adviser, said Ghani hopes that the victory of Democrats in the upcoming US elections, would sideline Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for Afghanistan who struck the Qatar deal with the Taliban, allowing Kabul to be in charge of the peace process.
“We should have one Loya Jirga to discuss substantive matters on peace with the Taliban and the type of future regime,” Farhadi said, adding that the Taliban, too, should participate in the assembly. “This meeting would be like a half-baked national dialogue (if it is) conducted by only one side of the conflict.”