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Central Japan NPO protecting 80 pets and animals after huge mudslide

This photo shows a rescued cat in a cloth-covered cage in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, on July 13, 2021. (Mainichi/Shota Kaneko)

ATAMI, Shizuoka -- A nonprofit organization (NPO) working to protect cats in this central Japan city has sheltered nearly 80 pets and strays left in danger after a devastating mudslide in the city.

    Mika Nasu, 60, head of the NPO Kusunoki, said of the rescue, "Animals have precious lives, too. We can't leave them to die." On the evening of July 3, the same day a deadly mudslide occurred in the Izusan district of Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, Nasu's acquaintance sent her a rescue request. They told her: "I left my pets at home and evacuated. The house is safe, but I don't have a car, so I can't go back." The following day, staff rushed to the property, rescuing a dog and a cat.

    Mika Nasu, head of NPO Kusunoki, talks about how many animals they have rescued, in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, on July 13, 2021. (Mainichi/Shota Kaneko)

    Nearby, mud-covered NPO staff carried rescued animals to their cars. The organization is saving pets with volunteers' help, but if homes are damaged or in dangerous areas, firefighters save the animals.

    The NPO has set up a "disaster animal rescue center" to bolster its efforts. Rescue requests come by phone, email and social media. The organization also provides support and deliver supplies including food and cages if needed.

    Due to difficulties bringing pets to the hotel serving as an evacuation center, the city government asked the group to temporarily keep the animals. Staff are taking care of pets and other animals at home or in a room in its building. They make sure that the animals are well taken care of, including covering their cages with cloths to prevent them from panicking.

    Nasu established Kusunoki in 2012. The organization conducts spay and neuter operations and protection activities for the city's stray cats, and became an NPO in 2021.

    After setting up a rescue center for animals affected by the disaster, work has continued until late at night on most days. Staff were so busy answering calls when the mudslide hit and in the following days that they could only sleep three to four hours a night. Even so, they work hard to save as many animals' lives as possible.

    Nasu said, "We have the supplies, so feel free to contact us."

    (Japanese original by Shota Kaneko, Shizuoka Bureau)

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