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Landslides leave 230,000 Hiroshima Pref. residents cut off from supplies

People wait in a long line to receive water in the Hiroshima Prefecture city of Kure after supplies were cut in the wake of torrential rain, on July 8, 2018. (Mainichi)

A spate of landslides in the wake of torrential rain in western Japan has left the Hiroshima Prefecture city of Kure practically isolated, threatening the daily lives of some 230,000 residents as they are cut off from supplies.

As a result of the landslides, most major roads and railway lines connecting the city with surrounding municipalities have been cut off, and as the city now battles midsummer heat, the supply of water and goods is dwindling.

"No food or water has come at all. If the isolation continues, we'll all wither," said 73-year-old Ichiro Tanabe, clutching four empty plastic bottles near a water supply point set up on the JR Kure Line, which has been forced to suspend operations, in the Tenno district in the west of Kure. Tanabe comes to the area, where rubble and driftwood remain strewn about, some four or five times a day, and always has to line up for about two hours to receive water.

Some 90,000 households in the city remain without water, but water supply trucks cannot frequently travel to and from the affected areas due to traffic congestion and other issues, leaving long lines of people waiting at water supply points.

According to the Kure Municipal Government, a landslide in the neighboring Hiroshima Prefecture town of Saka on National Route 31, which leads to the city of Hiroshima, left the road blocked. The Hiroshima-Kure Road caved in in several locations, and although a prefectural road leading to the town of Kumano remained traversable, it has been frequently congested with traffic. The coastal JR Kure Line has also been out of operation since July 5.

Delays in the supply of water have hit hospitals in Kure particularly hard. Saiseikai Kure Hospital, where 104 patients -- many of them elderly -- are hospitalized, needs about 36 metric tons of water a day, but is currently receiving only about half that amount. It is using supply tank water little by little to flush toilets, and has put off surgery that is not urgent and the washing of medical equipment. The hospital has stockpiled some medicine and food, but administrative section head Yuichi Manda divulged, "We're at the end of our tether. We really want the roads to be restored quickly."

Meanwhile supplies of food at supermarkets and convenience stores are sparse. At the Kure Miyahara branch of supermarket chain Every in the city, bread, drinks, prepared food and frozen food products were snapped up from July 7, leaving shelves bare. Supplies from Hiroshima and the city of Fukuyama in the prefecture have been delayed, and the store has been operating only in the mornings. Store manager Shinichi Sakaguchi, 51, lamented, "It's precisely during times of trouble that we want to serve as a lifeline for residents, but we can't procure food supplies, which is frustrating."

(Japanese original by Shiho Matsumoto, Hayaki Takeda, and Kensuke Yaoi, Osaka City News Department)

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