Flood, mudslides from strong rain in Japan kill at least 9

A part of Fukushima prefectural road is damaged by floodwaters after torrential rain in Iwaki city, Fukushima prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019.
Updated 26 October 2019

Flood, mudslides from strong rain in Japan kill at least 9

  • Rescue workers were looking for one person still missing in Chiba
  • The death toll included eight people in Chiba and one in Fukushima

TOKYO: Torrential rain that caused flooding and mudslides in towns east of Tokyo left at least nine people dead and added fresh damage in areas still recovering from recent typhoons, officials said Saturday.

Rescue workers were looking for one person still missing in Chiba. Another person was unaccounted for in Fukushima, farther north, which is still reeling from damage wrecked by Typhoon Hagibis earlier this month.

The death toll included eight people in Chiba and one in Fukushima. While rains and floodwater subsided, parts of Chiba were still inundated. About 4,700 homes were out of running water and some train services delayed or suspended.

In the Midori district in Chiba, mudslides crushed three houses, killing three people who were buried underneath them. Another mudslide hit a house in nearby Ichihara city, killing a woman. In Narata and Chonan towns, three drivers drowned when their vehicles were submerged.

“There was enormous noise and impact, ‘boom’ like an earthquake, so I went outside. Then look what happened. I was terrified,” said a resident who lived near the crushed home in Midori. “Rain was even more intense than the typhoons.”

In Fukushima, a woman was found dead in a park in Soma city after a report that a car was washed away. A passenger is still missing.

Rain also washed out Friday’s second round of the PGA Tour’s first tournament held in Japan, the Zozo Championship in Inzai city.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held an emergency task force meeting Saturday morning and called for “the utmost effort in rescue and relief operations.”

He also urged quicks repairs of electricity, water and other essential services to help restore the lives of the disaster-hit residents.

The Prime Minister’s Office said the average rainfall for the entire month had fallen in just half a day Friday.

The downpour came from a low-pressure system above Japan’s main island of Honshu that moved northward later Friday. Power was restored Saturday at most of the 6,000 Chiba households that had lost electricity.

Two weeks ago, Typhoon Hagibis caused widespread flooding and left more than 80 people dead or presumed dead across Japan.

Yoshiki Takeuchi, an office worker who lives in a riverside house in Chiba’s Sodegaura city, said he had just finished temporary repairs to his roof after tiles were blown off by the September typhoon when Friday’s rains hit hard.

“I wasn’t ready for another disaster like this. I’ve had enough of this, and I need a break,” he told Kyodo News.


Malaysian police question Al Jazeera journalists over report on immigrants

Updated 27 min 50 sec ago

Malaysian police question Al Jazeera journalists over report on immigrants

  • Al Jazeera journalists under investigation for sedition following the broadcast of a documentary about the mistreatment of migrant workers in Kuala Lumpur
  • The 25-minute documentary, titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” was broadcast as part of Al Jazeera’s “101 East” documentary strand on July 3

KUALA LUMPUR: Six members of staff from state-owned Qatari news broadcaster Al Jazeera were questioned by police in Malaysia on Friday.

They are under investigation for sedition following the broadcast of a documentary about the mistreatment of migrant workers in Kuala Lumpur during the coronavirus lockdown.

“The documentary has ignited a backlash among the public,” said national police chief Abdul Hamid Bador. “During our investigation, we found out there were inaccuracies in the documentary that were aimed at creating a bad image of Malaysia.”

He said police have discussed the case with the attorney general and added: “We are going to give a fair investigation and a fair opportunity for them to defend themselves, in case the AG wants to file charges against them.”

The journalists, accompanied by their lawyers, were questioned at police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

The 25-minute documentary, titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” was broadcast as part of Al Jazeera’s “101 East” documentary strand on July 3. It highlighted the plight of undocumented migrants reportedly arrested during raids on COVID-19 lockdown hotspots. Malaysian officials said the report was inaccurate and misleading.

On Thursday, Al Jazeera said it refutes the charges and “stands by the professionalism, quality and impartiality of its journalism” and has “serious concerns about developments that have occurred in Malaysia since the broadcast of the documentary.” It added: “Al Jazeera is deeply concerned that its staff are now subject to a police investigation.”

However, the incident highlights the broadcaster’s double standards in reporting issues about migrant workers. When Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Qatar in February of failing to implement a system to ensure construction companies pay migrant workers on time, the issue was not highlighted by Al Jazeera, the headquarters of which is in Doha.

On May 23, migrant workers staged a rare protest in Qatar over unpaid wages but Al Jazeera did not send reporters to interview the demonstrators.

Also in May, HRW said that crowded and unsanitary conditions at Doha Central Prison were exacerbating the COVID-19 threat. The organization urged Qatar to reduce the size of prison populations and ensure inmates have access to adequate medical care, along with masks, sanitizer and gloves. Again Al Jazeera did not focus on the issue.

Activists and civil-society groups criticized the Malaysian government for its heavy-handed move against Al Jazeera.

“The Malaysian government should stop trying to intimidate the media when it reports something the powers that be don’t like,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of HRW’s Asia division. “The reality is Malaysia has treated migrant workers very shoddily and Al Jazeera has caught them out on it.”

Nalini Elumalai, the Malaysia program officer for freedom of speech advocacy group Article 19, said the action against Al Jazeera is alarming and akin to “shooting the messenger.”

She added: “The government should instead initiate an independent inquiry into the issues raised in the documentary.”

There are at least 2 million migrant workers in Malaysia, though the true number is thought to be much higher as many are undocumented. They are a source of cheap, low-skilled labor in industries considered dirty and dangerous.