Japan storm victims felt worst was over, then floods came

Vehicles are seen under water following the typhoon-hit town of Marumori, Miyagi prefecture, Japan , Monday, Oct. 14, 2019.(AP)
Updated 14 October 2019

Japan storm victims felt worst was over, then floods came

  • The storm, which made landfall in the Tokyo region late Saturday, had dumped record amounts of rain that caused rivers to overflow their banks

KAWAGOE: After the worst of Typhoon Hagibis passed over this town north of Tokyo, Kazuo Saito made sure there was no water outside his house and went to bed.
He woke up a few times throughout the night to check, but by the time he woke for good on Sunday morning, the view outside his window was almost unrecognizable.
“There was a huge river flowing in front of me,” the 74-year-old said.
The storm, which made landfall in the Tokyo region late Saturday, had dumped record amounts of rain that caused rivers to overflow their banks, some of them damaged. It turned many neighborhoods in Kawagoe into swamps.
Crews were working across central and northern Japan on Monday to dig through mudslides and search riverbanks for those missing in the storm, which killed dozens of people and left thousands of homes on Japan’s main island flooded, damaged or without power. Some 30,000 people were in evacuation centers.
More than 200 rivers overflowed and inundated the typhoon-hit areas, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation. Hagibis caused damage to extensive areas, most likely because it hardly lost strength due to warmer-than-usual sea temperatures and became a super-sized typhoon, unlike usual autumn typhoons that wane while traveling north, experts said.
Saito, wearing work clothes and long rubber boots, said he was determined not to evacuate ahead of the storm or on Sunday despite the floodwaters because “this is my only home.” His wife, Sumiko, thought evacuating at that point was too late and more dangerous.
“I was terrified and my knees trembled,” she said.
As they waited, the waters gradually subsided, and on Monday they were able to come down from the second floor of their home. They were cleaning their dirt-covered front yard and sorting out mementos and furniture that were damaged when floodwaters reached nearly the ceiling of their garage.
“If I had known the water was to come this high, I could have evacuated them inside the house,” Kazuo Saito said.
The storm was the worst Saito could recall in all his years in Kawagoe. He said a tropical storm in 1999 that flooded more than 3,000 homes had floodwaters that were only waist-high.
“This time, it came up to here,” he said, raising his arm above his head and pointing to the dark line left by the water
At a nearby nursing home, dozens of residents were evacuated on rubber boats Monday, city officials said. On Sunday, more than 120 residents of Kings Garden, another care home for the elderly, were taken to safer facilities.
Hisako Satake, 87, who was among those evacuated from Kings Garden, was brought to a nearby elementary school where about 20 others had also taken shelter.
She said that when the floodwaters started seeping into the ground floor of her nursing home, she and other residents were escorted to a chapel on the second floor. They then lost running water and electricity.
“It was a bit of surprise,” Satake said, sitting on a folded futon mattress on the school gymnasium floor. “So we prayed, and that helped us to stay calm.”


World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

Updated 24 January 2020

World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

  • Economist and Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee will attend the event

JAIPUR: The 13th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) started on Thursday.

Known as the “greatest literary show on earth,” the five-day event brings to one venue more than 500 speakers of 15 Indian and 35 foreign languages, and over 30 nationalities.

Among the festival’s participants are Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners.

The event has been expanding, with over 400,000 people attending it last year and even more expected to show up this time.  The growing crowd has made the medieval Diggi Palace, which hosts it, look small, and organizers are planning to shift the event to a bigger venue next year.

Scottish historian and writer William Dalrymple, one of the organizers, said: “The first time we came to the Diggi Palace in 2007, 16 people turned up for the session of which 10 were Japanese tourists who walked out after 10 minutes, as they had come to the wrong place. Things have improved a little since then. We are now formally the largest literature festival in the world.”

Dalrymple, who has extensively written on medieval India and South Asia, has played a pivotal role in promoting the festival.

The other two organizers are its director, Sanjoy K. Roy, and writer Namita Gokhale, who along with Dalrymple made the JLF become one of the most sought-after events in India.

“Why has the literary festival taken off in this country in this extraordinary way? It goes back to the tradition of spoken literature, the celebration of literature orally through the spoken word has deep roots in this country,” Dalrymple said.

“So the idea that a literary festival is a foreign import is something that can’t be maintained. We’ve tapped into something very deep here. Literature is alive and is loved in India,” he said.

Inaugurating the festival’s 13th edition, celebrated British mathematician Marcus du Sautoy said: “Every number has its own particular character in the story of mathematics. For me it is 13; 13 is a prime number, an indivisible number, and the JLF is certainly a festival in its prime.”

The festival this year is taking place amid a raging debate about India’s new citizenship legislation and mass agitation on the issue of preserving the secular fabric of the nation.

Reflecting on the prevailing mood in the country, Roy, in his opening remarks, said: “We are now faced with a situation where we see a spread of the narrative of hatred. Literature is the one thing that can push back against it and so can be the arts. All of us have a responsibility to do so and this is not the time to be silent anymore.”

Gokhale said: “Ever since its inception 13 years ago, we at the Jaipur Literary Festival have tried to give a voice to our plural and multilingual culture. We live in a nation which is defined by its diversity, and it is our effort to present a range of perspectives, opinions, and points of view, which together build up a cross-section of current thinking.”

She added: “We seek mutual respect and understanding in our panels — it is important to us that these often conflicting ideas are respectfully presented and heard. We also resist predictable and self-important all-male panels, and try to ensure that the vital voices of women resonate through all aspects of our programming.”

One of the attractions of the event this year is the presence of Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, who won the prize in economics last year.

There are also panel discussions on Kashmir, the Indian constitution and history.

The prevailing political situation in South Asia is also reflected by the absence of Pakistani. Before, popular Pakistani authors would attend the JLF, but delays in visa issuance and a hostile domestic environment forced the organizers to “desist from extending invitations.”