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Multiple wildfires hit Tohoku, approaching near residential areas

A wildfire continues to burn in a mountain forest in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, on the morning of May 9, 2017. (Mainichi)

Helicopters were dispatched to the Iwate Prefecture city of Kamaishi and the Fukushima Prefecture town of Namie on the morning of May 9 as wildfires continue to spread in those areas. Particularly in Kamaishi, a fire apparently came within roughly 300 meters to the closest residential community as of the morning of the same day.

A total of 12 helicopters dispatched from the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) as well as the Iwate, Aomori and Akita prefectural governments started dumping water over mountain forests in the Heita district of Kamaishi at around 5 a.m. An evacuation order has been issued for nearby areas, and as of 10:30 a.m., 71 people had evacuated from their homes. According to the Kamaishi Municipal Government, an area approximately 400 hectares in size has burned down.

Meanwhile, the wildfire in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, has been burning for over 10 days, and the SDF and Fukushima Prefectural Government have continued efforts to put out the fire.

At the same time, a fire that started in the prefectural town of Aizubange, which burned down eight buildings on May 8 and spread to a nearby forest, was put out on the morning of May 9. The local fire department said a man was cooking wild vegetables in front of his house and rice straw caught on fire.

Meanwhile, Miyagi Prefectural Police detected traces of a bonfire near a forest believed to be the source of the wildfire on May 8 in the prefectural city of Kurihara. The fire burned down roughly 5 hectares, including 11 buildings.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the air on the Pacific side of the Tohoku region has been very dry, with less than 10 percent of an average year's rainfall recorded over the 10-day period through May 8.

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