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Gov't poised to revise standards for evacuation orders in wake of deadly torrential rains

A woman, foreground left, is rescued after a river flooded in the city of Fuchu, Hiroshima Prefecture, on July 10, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The government is preparing to reform its guidelines on evacuation orders and advisories in the wake of deadly torrential rains in western Japan, reflecting on the fact that some orders were issued after rivers had already flooded, and that some residents were slow in evacuating, resulting in greater damage.

An investigative committee comprising experts and disaster prevention officials from related government ministries and agencies will be set up, aiming to review judgment standards so that local bodies can issue evacuation orders and recommendations without hesitation before disasters strike. Officials plan to formulate new guidelines this year.

In a news conference on July 11, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga commented, "We're seeing repeated damage from torrential rain on a different order of magnitude from before. We need to consider linking disaster prevention and weather information from the Japan Meteorological Agency with evacuation information from local bodies." His comment indicated that officials would revise the way weather information is provided at the time of natural disasters, extending to the evacuation of residents and special warnings.

Under current guidelines, municipalities are presented with judgment standards and other information relating to evacuation orders and recommendations in the event of natural disasters, and are asked to formulate their own standards for issuing such advisories. The final decision on when to issue the order or recommendation is up to the mayor of each municipality.

In the latest torrential rains, the Seki Municipal Government in Gifu Prefecture issued an evacuation after a river in the city had already flooded. Separately, the Kurashiki Municipal Government in Okayama Prefecture issued an evacuation order but many people remained in their homes and became isolated as heavy rain cut off roads.

The new investigative committee will discuss measures to ensure that local bodies issue evacuation orders and recommendations before full-scale damage has occurred, and that the evacuation of residents is thoroughly implemented. The idea of enabling not only mayors but prefectural governors to issue orders and recommendations has also surfaced within the government.

The JMA's provision of weather information including warnings will also come under consideration. Officials will consider enhancing collaboration between the JMA and local bodies and creating a mechanism by which such information is conveyed directly to residents.

(Japanese original by Kazumasa Kawabe, Political News Department)

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