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Powerful typhoon leaves deep scars in northeast Japan

Route 274 connecting the Hokkaido towns of Hidaka and Shimizu is seen collapsed because of a swollen river after Typhoon Lionrock hit the area, on Aug. 31, 2016. (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism)
A driftwood-clogged road and bridge are seen in this photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun aircraft in Iwaizumi, Iwate Prefecture, on Aug. 31, 2016. (Mainichi)

IWATE -- Powerful Typhoon Lionrock directly struck northeastern Japan on Aug. 30, dumping heavy rain and leaving deep scars in the northeastern Tohoku region and Hokkaido.

The Iwate Prefecture town of Iwaizumi, where nine bodies were found near a flooded nursing home on Aug. 31, remained without electricity, and phone calls could not get through easily as communications networks were disrupted. Frustration among local residents is mounting as many citizens remain stranded inside their homes.

According to the Iwaizumi Municipal Government, the "Ran-Ran" nursing care facility where the nine fatalities were confirmed is home to nine people including seniors with dementia. Nursing home workers were apparently in the three-story "Friendly Iwaizumi" facility for the elderly next door at the time the "Ran-Ran" building was inundated. The "Friendly Iwaizumi" facility was also flooded up to the second floor. About 70 to 80 residents of the facility had been evacuated to the building's third floor, according to the local government.

The heavy rain caused the Omoto River running through the town about 150 meters from the nursing home to overflow its banks, flooding a low-lying residential area. According to an Iwaizumi Hospital official, "It is not a situation in which many injured people are being brought in, but we still don't have a full picture of the damage."

A dismayed 70-year-old local resident told the Mainichi Shimbun by telephone, "An awful thing happened." He said it rained furiously for about three hours on the night of Aug. 30. Because of the power outage, he said he could not assess the situation nearby. But when he went out in the morning, the central part of the town was flooded, he said. Driftwood got stuck at a bridge over the Omoto River, he said. "It was flooded apparently at around 9 p.m. on Aug. 30. I've heard that ropes were used to rescue residents at a nearby nursing home. It is the first time that Iwaizumi has suffered such damage," he said.

According to a local firefighting headquarters, landslides cut roads in many parts of the town, and many hamlets called for help as they said they were "isolated."

Some of the hamlets in the Yamanecho district of Kuji, Iwate Prefecture, have been flooded and isolated. A 58-year-old self-employed woman there spent an uneasy night with her six other family members.

"We were worried about the possibility of the hill behind our house collapsing, but the streaks of lightning and heavy rain were so ferocious that we could barely think about evacuating. We were shivering out of fear," she said.

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