Japan struggles to restore water supply

Reuters, KURASHIKI, Japan

Sat, Jul 14, 2018 - Page 6

Municipal workers in Japan yesterday struggled to restore the water supply in a flood-hit western region one week after inundation caused by a record downpour killed more than 200 people in the country’s worst weather disaster in 36 years.

Communities that grappled with rising floodwaters last week now find themselves battling scorching summer temperatures well above 30°C, as foul-smelling garbage piles up in mud-splattered streets.

“We need the water supply back,” said Hiroshi Oka, 40, a resident helping to clean up the Mabi District in one of the hardest-hit areas, the city of Kurashiki, where more than 200,000 households have gone without water for a week.

“What we are getting is a thin stream of water, and we can’t flush toilets or wash our hands,” he said, standing over a 20 liter plastic tank that was only partly filled after almost four hours of waiting.

Water supply has been restored to some parts of the district, a city official told reporters, but he did not know when normal operation would resume, as engineers are still trying to locate water pipeline ruptures.

The soaring temperatures have fueled concern that residents, many still in temporary evacuation centers, might have heat strokes or contract illnesses as hygiene levels deteriorate.

Public broadcaster Japan Broadcasting Corp has provided advice on coping with high temperatures and maintaining hygiene, such as a video tutorial on how to make a diaper from a towel and a plastic shopping bag.

More than 70,000 military personnel, police and firefighters have fanned out to tackle the aftermath of the floods.

There have been 204 deaths, with dozens of people still missing, the government said.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga urged people in flood-hit areas to take precautions against the heat and guard against thunderstorms.

“People still need to be aware of the possibility of further landslides,” Suga told a regular news conference yesterday.

Severe weather has increasingly battered Japan in the past few years, including floods last year that killed dozens, raising questions about the effects of global warming.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who canceled a scheduled overseas trip to deal with the rescue effort, visited Kurashiki on Thursday and said that he aimed to visit other flood-damaged areas yesterday and over the weekend.