Series of typhoon fatalities in cars emphasize need for early evacuation, Japan

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Many of the fatalities reported during the previous severe typhoons in Japan happened while victims were traveling in their cars, showing an urgent need for residents to understand they need to start evacuating much earlier and reach safety with a lot of time to spare.

Out of the 10 fatalities due to heavy rains and Typhoon "Bualoi"  in the prefectures of Fukushima and Chiba prefectures last week, five were recovered inside or near vehicles that had been either swept away by floodwater or submerged.

In a similar manner, 25 of the 87 fatalities due to the devastation of Typhoon "Hagibis" were also found in vehicles.

According to Hirotada Hirose, professor emeritus at Tokyo Woman's Christian University specializing in disaster risk studies, "People have no choice but to use vehicles when they travel a long distance with the elderly or children amid the rain."

He added, "What’s important is timing. They should follow government instructions and finish evacuating or traveling early. If they are too late, they shouldn’t go outside but should just stay on the upper floors of a building."

The Fukushima Prefectural Government reported that a 61-year-old mother died while her 38-year-old son went missing when their car was apparently swept away by floodwaters.

In Nagara, Chiba Prefecture, an 88-year-old was found dead inside a sunken vehicle. He reportedly told his son via phone that he was trapped inside the car before dying. The victim was planning to take refuge at his son's home located on a hill, but he did not survive the flood.

A postman in the same town aged 54 also died after his vehicle was swept off a bridge as he hit the road to pick up his 6-year-old son.

Recently, the Chiba government reported that a man around 80 years old from Urayasu City was missing, although his flood-damaged vehicle was discovered in a rice paddy in Sakura City.

The evacuation guidelines for tsunami in Chiba Prefecture show that floodwater measuring 0.5 m (1.6 feet) can trap a person inside a vehicle, causing it to float and be swept away.

The Meteorological Agency has urged people to avoid traveling in vehicles when downpours exceed 50 mm (2 inches) per hour.

In addition, the land ministry reported that 34 rivers burst in five prefectures including Fukushima and Chiba due to heavy rain accompanying Typhoon Bualoi last week. Around 2 400 ha (5 930 acres) of land were flooded at one point.

After the landfall of Typhoon "Hagibis" river levees were broken at 140 sites on 71 rivers. At least 25 000 ha (61 776 acres) on Honshu were submerged in floodwater.

Featured image credit: Kazuyoshi Sako

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