A rescuer in the search for missing people, excavators working (Image grabbed from CCTV video via Reuters)
The death toll from the torrential rains that have battered western Japan reached 200, authorities said Thursday, as search and rescue missions continue to find dozens still missing in the wake of flooding and landslides.
More than 70,000 personnel are involved in the ongoing search and rescue missions for the 60 or more people still unaccounted for in the areas affected by the deluge.
These include the hardest-hit regions of Hiroshima, Okayama and Ehime prefectures.
For days now, Masumi Fujita, a survivor in Hiroshima, has done little but worrying about his girlfriend. She was at home on Friday night when torrential rains started pounding Western Japan. The last time they spoke was on the phone on his way home, but he has not been able to hear from her since.
“She’s missing because of a series of unfortunate events. Now that I think about it, I could have intervened in one of those events. There’s a chance I could have prevented the tragedy,” said Fujita.
Fujita’s girlfriend could be one of the few still missing from their village in Hiroshima. Three days of heavy downpour set off landslides in different parts of the prefecture, killing scores. Search and rescue workers have been digging through rubble, looking for survivors or bodies.
Over 70 people have been confirmed dead in Hiroshima alone. Search teams are taking advantage of the improved weather, clearing the worst-hit communities of boulders that the rains have sent crashing down and debris from the destroyed homes.
“I walked up from the bottom of the hill towards where my house was, and when I looked up where my house was supposed to be, the only thing I saw was the foundation,” said Fujita.
As the search efforts continue, the Japanese government has earmarked more than 630 million U.S. dollars for reconstruction.
Fujita said he hoped to rebuild the life that he had shared with his girlfriend, so he is holding on to what little hope there is of finding her alive.— Reuters