Details of the massive damage caused by Typhoon Hagibis that hit extensive areas of the Japanese archipelago over the weekend are becoming clear.
Over 70 people, mainly those in central, eastern and northeastern Japan, died in the disaster, and many others remain unaccounted for. We hope that search and rescue workers will save those missing people.
At one point, more than 200,000 people were staying at evacuation shelters in affected areas. At least 10,000 homes and other structures sustained damage, forcing many people to take shelter. Authorities are required to do their best to extend assistance to evacuees and provide them with health care services as it has recently become cold at night.
The damage was multiplied by flooded rivers in various typhoon-hit areas. In particular, many people were killed by overflowing rivers in the northeastern prefectures of Fukushima and Miyagi, including the Abukuma River. Many of these victims failed to evacuate, apparently because the typhoon brought strong winds and heavy rain late at night.
In the past, the Tohoku region in northeastern Japan had not sustained major damage from typhoons compared to Kyushu in the southwest and other typhoon-prone areas. However, the latest disaster suggests that widespread torrential rain can occur anywhere in the country.
Typhoon Hagibis, this year's 19th, accumulated energy above the southern seas, where the surface temperature was higher than normal, before lashing the Japanese archipelago. The risk of disasters caused by torrential rain is increasing year by year because of global warming, and the central and local governments as well as other entities need to take effective countermeasures.
River levees in areas affected by the typhoon, including large-scale rivers managed by the central government, collapsed one after another, causing floods. This will prompt the state to review its river improvement and flood control plan. Since torrential rains ravaged western Japan in 2018, the national government has been working on countermeasures, such as reinforcing river dikes across the country that could endanger the lives of local residents if they break. The government should scrutinize the details of the damage caused by the latest typhoon and identify specific problems.
That being said, it takes a long time to reinforce or build such large-scale structures to prevent disasters. This is why it is important to evacuate residents of areas likely to be hit by such disasters at an early stage and beef up other measures to reduce damage from disasters.
Some local bodies issued evacuation orders only after the Japan Meteorological Agency released a heavy rain emergency warning for the latest typhoon. It is necessary to scrutinize whether disaster information was conveyed to local residents in an appropriate manner.
Hospitals and nursing homes in various areas hit by the typhoon were isolated after their neighborhoods were flooded. There are apparently many other such facilities situated in disaster-prone areas.
Some people complained that they struggled to connect to local governments' websites to view local hazard maps and found such maps hard to understand even after managing to access the websites.
How regional governments will make their areas resistant to natural disasters as the population is declining poses a challenge. Lessons learned from Typhoon Hagibis should be applied to prepare for future widespread torrential rains.