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200,000 people in central Japan ordered to evacuate, 400 stranded amid record rainfall

Mud is seen flowing into flooded houses in the central Japan city of Gero, Gifu Prefecture, on July 8, 2020. (Mainichi)

Residents in central Japan have suffered severe damage from flooding caused by record rainfall, with about 200,000 people in Gifu Prefecture ordered to evacuate, and some 400 people left stranded in Nagano Prefecture.

One after another, communities were stranded and houses were flooded in the city of Gero in Gifu Prefecture and elsewhere. Machiko Nagata, 72, who resides in the Kawamata district of the prefectural town of Shirakawa -- where the Hida River and its tributary the Shirakawa River merge -- reflected on the record rainfall with an astonished look.

"We have had flooding damage two or three times in the past 50 years, but there has never been a case where such strong rain lasted for so long," she said.

Nagata said that muddied water flowed into the cafe she manages on the morning of July 8, flooding the stockroom in the basement.

In the city of Gero, parts of the Hida River overflowed and sections of roads along National Route 41 collapsed. A total of 136 residents from 46 households in the Hoido district of the city have been left stranded due to collapsed roads and flooding. A resident of the district, Katsuki Otani, 66, expressed his concern, saying, "I usually go to a separate district for shopping by using the national road. If this situation continues, it'll have a large impact on my daily life."

Local governments have been under pressure to open evacuation shelters. Up to 32 residents from 17 households have evacuated to the Shimohara community center in the city of Gero. Evacuation shelter officials placed disinfectant at its entrance and are using tables as partitions in the shelter area as preventative measures against the novel coronavirus. Hiroko Nakashima, 78, who lives alone, decided to leave her house at an early stage as she is unable to walk well, and evacuated on the evening of July 6. She commented, "I considered evacuating early on after hearing about the torrential rains in Japan's southwestern Kyushu region. It's terrifying that there are torrential rain disasters every year." Another resident, Sakae Nagao, 86, said, "I'm glad I evacuated early on since the floods reach homes before you know it."

Meanwhile, in Nagano Prefecture, about 400 residents have been left stranded after at least 16 locations were hit by landslides caused by the torrential rains on July 8. Among those stranded are 308 people including visitors staying at Kamikochi, a tourist area in the Northern Alps region. According to the local government in the city of Matsumoto, a lifeline and ample food have been secured for those stranded. A worker at the Kamikochi Imperial Hotel, which currently is accommodating 26 guests, commented, "We are calling for guests to stay inside the hotel, which can serve as an evacuation site."

The Kiso River temporarily reached flooding danger levels. "Graceful Kiso," a nursing home for the elderly located along the river in the Nagano Prefecture town of Kiso, had its first-floor occupants evacuate to the second floor of the home on the night of July 7 to prepare for flooding. Some residents at a special nursing home in the Kumamoto Prefecture village of Kuma in southwestern Japan recently passed away after the building was flooded. A representative of Graceful Kiso commented, "We had our residents evacuate at an early stage because moving to the second floor would become difficult if the elevator stops working."

In the Naganuma district of the city of Nagano, where the levee of the Chikuma River had collapsed during Typhoon Hagibis in 2019, the fire department issued a request for farmers to refrain from working near the left bank of the river.

(Japanese original by Sawako Kumagai, Gifu Bureau; Shinichiro Kawase, Nagoya News Center; Taisuke Shimabukuro, Nagano Bureau and Mari Sakane, Nagano Bureau)

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