Miniature mare saved from Japan floods captures hearts

Miniature mare saved from Japan floods captures hearts
PHOTO: AFP

KURASHIKI - A miniature horse who survived deadly floods by swimming to a rooftop has captured hearts in Japan, as the country tries to recover from record rains that killed at least 179 people.

Leaf, a nine-year-old horse who had been a pet at an eldercare home in the town of Kurashiki, spent three days stranded on top of a house before she was spotted by aid workers on Monday (July 9) as floodwaters receded.

Photos of the diminutive tan horse with a blonde mane standing forlornly on the rooftop appeared in local newspapers and made a splash on social media, providing a rare moment of levity after the country's worst weather-related disaster in more than three decades.

ALSO READ: Japan hit by worst weather disaster in decades: Why did so many die?

Relief workers "called the fire department asking for help to rescue her, but were told rescuers were tied up saving human lives", said Keiko Takahashi of humanitarian aid group Peace Winds Japan.

Photo: AFP

Her organisation sent staff to the scene to bring down the terrified horse, which had been left to fend for herself and her baby Earth by panicked care-home workers evacuating as the floods hit.

"Workers at the care facility had no other choice but to release animals as they had to flee immediately in the face of rapidly rising water," Takahashi told AFP.

She said that one resident had seen a horse swimming through the floodwaters later that day.

Unfortunately, baby Earth did not survive the floods, but Leaf has been moved to a nearby farm and showered with attention, Takahashi said.

She has also been reunited with workers at the care home, who reportedly burst into tears when they found out that the miracle mare had survived.

At least 64 killed in Japan after 'unprecedented' rain

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    The death toll from unprecedented rains in Japan rose to at least 64 on Sunday after rivers burst their banks and forced several million people from their homes, media reports said, with more rain set to hit some areas for at least another day.

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    Torrential rains pounded some parts of western Japan with three times the usual precipitation for a normal July and set off landslides and sent rivers surging over their banks, trapping many people in their houses or on rooftops.

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    "We've never experienced this kind of rain before," an official at the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) told a news conference. "This is a situation of extreme danger."

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    At least 64 people were killed and 44 missing, national broadcaster NHK said after the death toll had been put at 49 overnight.

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    Japan's government set up an emergency management centre at the prime minister's office and some 54,000 rescuers from the military, police and fire departments were dispatched across a wide swath of southwestern and western Japan.

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    "There are still many people missing and others in need of help, we are working against time," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

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    Evacuation orders remained in place for some 2 million people and another 2.3 million were advised to evacuate, although rain had stopped and floodwaters receded in some areas.

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    Landslide warnings were issued in more than a quarter of the nation's prefectures.

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    Roads were closed and train services suspended in parts of western Japan. Shinkansen bullet train services, resumed on a limited schedule after they were suspended on Friday.

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