Japanese towns remain muddy swamps

Search and rescue operations for people who are missing following the breaches of river banks caused by record levels of rainfall in eastern Japan continued Saturday in Joso, Ibaraki Prefecture, and Osaki, Miyagi Prefecture.

Ground searches were held in cities where vast areas were flooded, while full-fledged work to repair damaged levees also commenced.

In Joso, the city government announced Saturday that the number of missing people fell from 22 to 15 after it had confirmed seven people had been contacted.

A man missing in Kurihara, Miyagi Prefecture, was found and later pronounced dead.

Although discharging water from flooded areas and work to clear away debris from damaged housing was gradually progressing, 188 people in Joso were still waiting to be rescued. As of 11 a.m. Saturday, 3,318 people had been evacuated and taken to 28 shelters in the city.

According to the Ibaraki prefectural government and the Joso city government, the number of missing people fell to 15 mainly because relatives and acquaintances of some of the people believed to be missing managed to confirm their whereabouts.

The Ibaraki pefectural police, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Self-Defence Forces and the Japan Coast Guard deployed a total of about 1,260 personnel in the search for the remaining missing people.

Equipment involved in search and rescue operations has included sticks for probing flooded areas, and helicopters and boats for rescuing stranded residents.

According to the Ibaraki prefectural government, the total number of residential buildings damaged by the floods was 11,748 in 22 cities and towns. Of them, 4,567 were flooded above the first floor and 7,181 were flooded below it.

The number of flooded houses in Joso was 11,000 - accounting for more than 90 per cent of the total.

In Joso's Misakamachi district at a site where part of the Kinugawa river's levees collapsed, workers from the Kanto Regional Development Bureau of the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry began emergency repair work, such as placing large cement blocks along the riverbanks, on Friday night. The work will be conducted around the clock and is expected to be finished within about two weeks.

At about 8 a.m. Saturday, 33 pumping trucks undertook work to discharge water from the Kinugawa river that flooded residential areas of Joso.

At around 10:20 p.m. on Thursday, four pumping trucks began discharging water at the Hakkenbori floodgate in Joso's Mitsukaido-Hashimotocho district. Water levels in a channel connected to the Kinugawa river had risen and the trucks were discharging excess water into a section of the river that was still flowing along its original course.

In Kurihara, Miyagi Prefecture, a search for a 62-year-old Joso man who was driving a mini truck was conducted Saturday. The vehicle was found in the Kumakawa river, which the man is believed to have fallen into.

The search was conducted by 140 personnel from the prefecture's police force and firefighting stations and mainly along the Kumakawa river, where water levels had fallen.

Along the Shibuikawa river in Osaki, Miyagi Prefecture, workers from the land ministry's Tohoku Regional Development Bureau began work on Saturday morning to repair three collapsed levees.