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47 expressway sections in western Japan damaged by torrential rains

The Kochi Expressway, some of whose supporting piles collapsed after being hit by a landslide, is seen in this photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter in Otoyo, Kochi Prefecture, on July 8, 2018. (Mainichi)

Damage has been confirmed at 47 sections on expressways in western Japan, as of July 8, that were hit by heavy rain, the expressway operator said, and it is expected to take a considerable amount of time before seven of the areas can be repaired.

Services on some lines operated by West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) and Shikoku Railway Co. (JR Shikoku) remain suspended due to damage to bridges and tracks as well as other problems caused by the downpours.

According to preliminary figures announced by West Nippon Expressway Co. (NEXCO West), sections covering up to 2,268 kilometers of expressway roads the company operates were closed at one point due to the heavy rains that hit extensive areas of western Japan on the weekend. The closure of roads is believed to have been on the largest scale for expressways since the Japan Highway Public Corp. was split into regional companies including NEXCO West and other entities in 2005.

A slope along the Kochi Expressway south of Tajikawa Tunnel collapsed in Otoyo, Kochi Prefecture, causing about a 63-meter section of its outbound lanes to break away. As a result, a prefectural road and a forest road below the expressway were blocked, and 72 people in 49 households in four nearby neighborhoods remain isolated, the Kochi Prefectural Government said.

Nobody was injured because the expressway and the prefectural road have been closed since the evening of July 6.

A slope also collapsed along the Chugoku Expressway between Hokubo and Niimi interchanges in Okayama Prefecture, and soil flowed into two nearby houses.

A landslide hit a section of the Hiroshima-Kure Toll Road between the Sakaminami and Tenno-nishi interchanges in Hiroshima Prefecture, causing an approximately 30-meter stretch of the road to collapse and blocked the JR Kure Line and National Route No. 31.

According to JR West, the approximately 100-meter-long Misasa River No. 1 bridge between Shirakiyama and Karuga stations on the Geibi Line was almost completely swept away by a swollen river. Piles supporting the Saita River bridge between Motoyama and Kanonji stations on the JR Yosan Line in Kagawa Prefecture were damaged and the tracks on the bridge bent, JR Shikoku officials said.

(Japanese original by Takashi Yamashita, Osaka City News Department)

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