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Disaster-hit Fukuoka Pref. man caring for dog adopted by his late wife

Gonta is seen outside the evacuation center at the gymnasium of Haki Junior High School, in Asakura, Fukuoka Prefecture, on July 9, 2017. (Mainichi)

ASAKURA, Fukuoka -- A man struggling with the loss of his wife, an animal-lover, to flooding caused by torrential rainfall here has taken up the task of caring for a dog that she adopted.

    "There's nothing I can really say. She loved animals," said 69-year-old Shigemi Kojima, who had lived with his 69-year-old wife Hatsuko in Asakura's Haki district. The dog was adopted by Hatsuko when she found him abandoned while on a walk, and she and her daughter named him "Gonta," Kojima recalled while petting the beloved canine.

    At roughly 4:30 p.m. on July 5, as Fukuoka Prefecture was struck by record-breaking rainfall, Hatsuko called from the first floor of their home to Kojima on the second floor that it was time to quickly evacuate their residence. But before Kojima could descend to the first floor, dirt and sand flooded into the house, he says.

    Gonta survived unharmed, and Kojima moved to an evacuation center together with the dog. Hatsuko's body was discovered in a river approximately 1 kilometer from their house three days later -- one of the 25 victims discovered so far in the wake of the flooding and landslides that bombarded northern Kyushu.

    "Since the disaster, even Gonta's tail is drooping, and he hasn't been that lively," said Kojima. "It's up to me to look after him now."

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