Tue, Jul 10, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Abe cancels trip abroad as rain toll reaches 100

DISASTER:Japan’s prime minister was to visit four nations, including Belgium, where he was to sign an FTA. Instead, he is to visit the worst-affected areas

AFP, TOKYO and KUMANO, Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has canceled a four-nation trip as the death toll from flooding and landslides caused by record rains hit 100, the government’s top spokesman said yesterday.

Abe had been expected to visit Belgium, France, Saudi Arabia and Egypt starting tomorrow.

The prime minister canceled the tour to the countries “to concentrate on disaster-management measures, such as rescue and construction works,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

Abe is expected to visit some of the areas worst affected by the flash flooding and landslides as early as tomorrow, local media said.

He had been due to start the trip in Belgium, where he was to sign a massive free-trade agreement (FTA) with the EU.

EU President Donald Tusk offered to hold that meeting in Tokyo instead.

“My heartfelt condolences and words of European solidarity with the people of Japan and PM,” Tusk wrote on Twitter.

“In view of the tragic circumstances, we are ready to move our EU-Japan Summit from Brussels to Tokyo next week,” he said.

As the floods receded, emergency workers reached previously cut-off places where authorities fear they could find more bodies in the wreckage of homes devastated by rivers of mud and debris.

“I have asked my family to prepare for the worst,” said Kosuke Kiyohara, 38, as he waited for word of his sister and her two young sons.

“I can’t reach her phone,” he said, sitting across from a house that had been ripped apart and tossed on its side by a huge landslide.

Rescue workers said it was still possible that survivors could be found, but acknowledged the odds were getting longer.

“It has been three days... It’s possible that survivors will be found, but as the days pass the likelihood becomes slimmer,” a soldier at the scene said.

At the end of last week rivers engorged by more than 1m of rain burst their banks, engulfing entire villages and forcing people to rooftops to await evacuation by helicopter. Hillsides gave way under the weight of water, with deadly landslides crushing wooden houses and erasing roads.

Suga said 73,000 police, firemen and troops were taking part in the rescue effort, with 700 helicopters deployed to help.

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