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  • In Japan's flood-ravaged Mabi, delays and lack of awareness magnified death toll

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In Japan's flood-ravaged Mabi, delays and lack of awareness magnified death toll

Source(s):  Thomson Reuters

By Mari Saito, Ami Miyazaki, and Linda Sieg


Interviews with more than a dozen residents, officials and experts show how multiple failures increased Mabi’s death toll: flood-control plans were delayed for decades; residents often didn’t understand warnings about the risks; and an evacuation order for the worst-hit area came just minutes before confirmation that a levee had failed.

“We had our local politicians working for years to change the flow of that river,” Akutagawa said. A flood control project finally won approval in 2010 and construction was set to start this autumn.

“If they had started earlier, even four or five years earlier, we wouldn’t have this,” he added.


Still, calls to improve flood control date back decades.

Early proposals, dating as far back as 1968, called for a river bypass and a weir, or small dam, to supply water to farms and reduce flood risks. Resistance from residents on the southern side of the Odagawa river over being cut off from groundwater stalled the plans, Takahashi said.


Kurashiki Mayor Kaori Ito announced the first evacuation order, for the area south of the Odagawa river, at 11:45 p.m. At 1:30 a.m. the next day, using loudspeakers, mobile phone alerts, and television and radio messages, the city ordered residents in the heavily populated area north of the river to seek shelter.

That order came just four minutes before confirmation of the first levee failure, on a small Takamagawa river.


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  • Publication date 16 Jul 2018

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