Essential for All Parties to be Extremely Vigilant in July

In recent years, an increasing number of torrential rain disasters have occurred in the Japanese archipelago in early July, the latter half of the rainy season. Governments, local communities and residents all need to be on high alert and thoroughly prepared to save lives.

Already this year, Kyushu and other parts of Japan have been hit by record-breaking heavy rainfall. Landslides and overflowing rivers have occurred one after another, resulting in deaths. This is due to the occurrence of linear precipitation bands that bring heavy rainfall in a short period of time.

Conditions with a high possibility of rain are expected to continue in many parts of the country from July 6 onward. The rainfall so far has loosened the ground in some areas. It is necessary to take precautions against landslides and other disasters.

It has been five years since the torrential rains in western Japan that killed 305 people mainly in Hiroshima, Okayama and Ehime prefectures. The torrential rains in Kyushu, which caused major damage including from the flooding of the Kuma River in Kumamoto Prefecture, also occurred around this time three years ago.

In both cases, linear precipitation bands occurred. In the latter half of the rainy season, fronts often stagnate near Japan under the influence of high-pressure systems in the Pacific Ocean. As a result, the atmosphere becomes unstable, cumulonimbus clouds develop and linear precipitation bands are likely to occur. The effects of global warming have also been pointed out.

Since last year, the Japan Meteorological Agency has been issuing forecasts of linear precipitation bands half a day prior. In May this year, the JMA began announcing information on the occurrence of linear precipitation bands earlier than usual.

Although some forecasts turn out to be incorrect when no linear precipitation bands actually occur, once a forecast or information on the bands’ occurrence is issued, it is vital to be aware of imminent danger.

One available step is to utilize information from services such as the JMA’s “Kiki-kuru,” which literally means “disaster approaching.” The service allows users to check the current hazard level for each disaster on smartphones and other devices.

It is difficult for the elderly, the disabled and children to evacuate in heavy rain. It is important to decide in advance where to evacuate to under what circumstances, taking into consideration the family structure and the environment around the home.

It may also be useful for people to create their own disaster plan that focuses on a timeline of actions to be taken in the event of evacuation.

Many people use automobiles when evacuating. However, even though flooded roads may appear shallow, there is a risk that cars could be swept away. There have been fatal cases in the past. It is important to stay away from riversides and low-lying areas, even in familiar places.

In some areas in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, where the torrential rains that hit western Japan in 2018 claimed numerous victims, a plan has been promoted in which evacuees tie yellow tasuki sashes to their front doors to let others know that they have evacuated. If a house does not have a yellow tasuki, neighbors are expected to call out and urge them to flee.

To minimize the damage caused by increasingly serious torrential rains, it is essential for local communities to work together.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 6, 2023)