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Memorial Services Held 3 Years after Downpours

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Attendees pray at a ceremony in Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto Prefecture, on Sunday.

HITOYOSHI, Kumamoto (Jiji Press) — Memorial ceremonies were held in Kumamoto Prefecture on Sunday for those who lost their lives in floods and mudslides caused by downpours that mainly hit the southwestern Japan prefecture around three years ago.

At the ceremony in the Kumamoto city of Hitoyoshi, one of the hardest hit areas, 46 participants, including bereaved family members, jointly offered a moment of silence and prayed for the souls of the victims.

In a speech at the ceremony, Hitoyoshi Mayor Hayato Matsuoka said, “In order to protect precious lives, we will develop and expand evacuation routes and evacuation sites, and establish a system where everyone can escape without delay.”

Also at the ceremony, Kumamoto Gov. Ikuo Kabashima said, “We’ll do our best to ensure the safety and security of the affected areas and achieve creative reconstruction.”

Speaking as a representative of the bereaved families, Shinji Kuraoka, 54, who lost his aunt, Ayako, then 92, in the disaster, said, “I’ll never forget the tragedy I saw that day.” He pledged to pass on what he experienced at first hand.

On Sunday, a memorial service was held also in the city of Yatsushiro in Kumamoto. The town of Ashikita and the village of Kuma, both in Kumamoto, are scheduled to host memorial ceremonies as well, on July 23 and Aug. 6, respectively.

The disaster began on July 4, 2020.

Kumamoto’s death toll reached 67, including those who died from indirect causes linked to the disaster. Two people are still unaccounted for.

In Hitoyoshi, where the Kuma River flooded, the death toll came to 21, including one attributed to an indirect cause.

According to Kumamoto Prefecture, 1,154 people of 545 households were still living in temporary housing as of the end of May.