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Why have record rains been so deadly in Japan?

35 Comments
By Kyoko Hasegawa

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Government not keeping up maintenance of dams and levees? If these rains are going to become an annual thing, measures will have to be stepped up.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Because most of Japan is built on flood plains. There is not enough space for the population. The last thing Japan needs is more people.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

When was the last time a typhoon's eye wall made a direct landfall on Japan? 2006?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Bit of hyperbole.  This kind of extreme weather event causes mayhem and mortality all over the world.  Why should Japan be any less susceptible?

0 ( +8 / -8 )

"Human beings have a so-called normalcy bias, meaning people try not to evacuate, ignoring negative information," said Hirotada Hirose, a disaster management expert. "This human nature means people can't react to disasters like landslides and flash floods, which occur suddenly."

I think this is one of the biggest reasons. People assume it will be okay or have no real idea what to do or where to go until it's too late.

On top of that most of the people are elderly who might have physical problems making moving difficult or slow.

Weather is getting extremer every year, if we don't do something about global warming now expect a lot more rainfall, floods etc in the near future.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

The nationals have been dealing with major disasters for thousands of year. Japan has more natural disasters than many other places.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Scientists warned that climate change would cause natural phenomenons to become bigger and more violent.

It's what we've been seeing for years now, and it's going to become the new normal.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Global warming means that the air is warmer, and warmer air can absorb more water, so there will be heavier rains and snow. Also warming means more energy, so the rain and snow storms will be more violent. Also, normal wind currents will be disrupted. Look forward to some global weather chaos.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

1 ( +3 / -2 )

One other thing is that when developers come in and bulldoze, they obliterate the natural pathways of water that existed in these areas, pave over them and hope that a network of ditches will do the job. If you look at older neighborhoods, say along the Hankyu Line in Kobe, Ashiya, Nishinomiya, the hills in Maiko etc you see that the rain drainage took precedence, and the houses were built around it, the opposite of present policy and construction techniques. You can't ignore topography. What happened when they changed the course of the Minatogawa? The first typhoon and whole ichiba and neighborhood flooded. They had to do part of it over. If you get over the projected rainfall and capacity of the ditch system, the water overwhelms the new construction and reverts to it's natural path. It should be taken into consideration.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

 So why has record rainfall caused at least 100 deaths?

Perhaps because these were 'record rainfall' i.e. a once in a lifetime event!? I had never endured 4-5 days of continuous (often heavy) rain like this. I actually thought the death-toll would be much worse considering many elderly ppl live alone in remote, isolated villages.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Where we live in Kobe some of the roads down from the mountain are built on previous rivers which ran dry except like the during the heavy drain but someone had fore thought to build in very large drains under the road or alongside them which actually dealt with the gushing water. They are like one meter wide and one meter and a half deep. The water reached the top but didn't overflow on to the streets. Flood drains like in my parents place in Florida and other parts of America.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

One wonders what the hordes of civil servants and politicians are doing. Those whose job is to protect us against this kind of thing. They need to get out of their comfortable, airconditioned offices and LOOK. This kind of catastrophe is NOT unpredictable. If the government were run as a business, heads would ROLL!

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

Water management in Japan seems to be a case of getting rid of it as fast as possible and making it downstream's problem. The foothills have suffered landslides, but the flooding has mostly been downstream.

If authorities upstream put runoff into straightened concreted channels, the water will flow at a much faster rate than in a natural river. This means that water can build up faster downstream and overload their defences.

On the whole though, I think the main cause is climate change causing more abnormal weather. I keep an eye on JMA records for my town and we've had lots of record months in the last few years. fwiw, I think Japan is a good country to be in when disaster strikes. People are treated well and their needs are placed higher than what the beancounters say, unlike some countries I could mention.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Cutting trees on mountains in my area

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Although casualties seem high it it seems to me that on the whole Japan deals well with the myriad of natural disasters that it is prone to.

can help but think that given the huge volume of rainfall and the scale of the flooding there would have been many more casualties in most other countries.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Multiple causes obviously, but the point made about deforestation is particularly important. Trees slow down and break up the water flow, giving lower lands a better chance of escaping the worse of the floods. In a topography like Japan, and in the face of climate changes, re-afforestation and banning unnecessary deforestation should be an absolute national priority.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Japan planted too many pine trees for logging because they grow quickly but do not grow deep roots and the top soil becomes loose.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Japan planted too many pine trees for logging because they grow quickly but do not grow deep roots and the top soil becomes loose.

Sorry, but you're as wrong as you can get. Please make an effort to understand how slippage of the topsoil occurs many meters below the distance any plant roots extend. The topsoil becomes waterlogged and too heavy to adhere to the bedrock, and the whole thing comes cascading down. This process is often explained by experts on TV news programs.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Bit of hyperbole. This kind of extreme weather event causes mayhem and mortality all over the world. Why should Japan be any less susceptible?

Exactly, and the Japanese deal with the recent earthquakes and this floods in a way which can't be seen elsewhere on this globe where the footage merely include crying and desperate people. Yesterday I saw a Japanese man on TV entering his flooded kitchen saying ' this is very disappointing. '

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

We received 2 warnings, one for landslide and one for flooding.

The evacuation point was unreachable due to flooding, and a secondary one was closed. Go figure.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In Western Japan there were also strong earthquakes which loosen the mountain soils.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

We received 2 warnings, one for landslide and one for flooding.

At least you received them go figure all the flooded places even in development countries where there was no warning.

The evacuation point was unreachable due to flooding, and a secondary one was closed. Go figure.

A fact on your location so what does that say about the big picture?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

We received email warnings almost every hour to inform us of the situation. I find that impressive. Some of our local friends had to evacuate but all have now returned home. There are many ways to find and track what's happening starting with the JMA.

List of websites offering natural disaster info in English for Japan

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20180620/p2a/00m/0na/017000c

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Failed to mention, lots of old folk who are more or less helpless in these situations. I lived in Taiwan for many years and this rain was nothing unusual for the rainy season there, not to mention the ferocious typhoons they face head on every year. Yet despite being mountainous and densely populated just like Japan, there are far fewer deaths or problems when it rains heavily. Not sure why?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The topography is vertical, very steep and shaking sometime. Whatever effort your roads will never be as smooth as in most other places.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I'm not sure Japan could dp much more really to prevent landslides. A drive in the countryside shows you that half of the mountainsides have those waffly-type concrete reinforcements plastered all over them (never known what they are really called in either language). The cost of maintaining Japan's roads must be astronomical compared to most countries.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The warning system IS very problematic. As usual the government decides to issue warnings or notices and leaves it up to local governments to direct, but those governments are the one's who have to deal with everything under blanket notices with no specifics, and with no budget for training in most cases. In almost every case of landslides killing people, or floods killing people, you hear about a City Hall that declined to issue an evacuation order, or else the owners of a large apartment complex or old folks home to didn't bother to let residents know an evacuation order was in effect. I think they need to start making it mandatory, and that means the government putting forth guidelines with specifics, and training local governments on what to do and how.

And not allowing construction on unstable land? Nonsense. They are using LANDFILL to hoist up buildings.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

With the rural areas becoming ever more depopulated, less attention and maintenance is being performed. In these areas, sometimes more than one-third of the buildings are vacant. Smaller drains, gutters, and spillways are not being cleared, land that was being farmed or otherwise used has gone fallow.

Infrastucture built the 50’s to the 80’s has not been well-maintained, and has certainly not been improved. Japanese have a way of using something until it doesn’t work anymore, and then replacing it, rather than performing routine maintenance and improvements over time. Look at school buildings and government offices, they are never pressure washed or repainted, plants grow in the cracks in concrete walls.

In America, such disasters, from fires to floods, can usually be traced to poor land management.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japan still builds houses wrong. Most houses do not sit on proper foundations and any house built more than 30 years ago is exceptionally flimsy with tile roofs far too heavy for the overall framing. Granted, this wouldn't prevent any house, save for one with maybe 3' or 4' stub walls, from being swept off it's foundation in the face of a 5' wall of mud, but you wouldn't see near the level of damage you do now form mudslides, earthquakes and tsunami.

Then there is the whole problem of trying to control rivers with levees and concrete banks. All the latter does is help accelerate flow during heavy rain. Similarly, levees, even of equal height, tend to create more pressure at bends increasing the possibility of failure.

With most of Japan's population centers being in flood plains and not very far above sea level and so many old villages and smaller towns built on hillsides, there really isn't anything to be done. Consider how little has been done seven years after the Tohoku quake and tsunami. It's better to spend money on an Olympics.

All this is only going to become more frequent.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The average July rainfalls for the entire month in, for example, Fukuyama, Hiroshima, is 170.2 mm, or or 6.701 inches. That's the average. Guess how much rain fell there in three days last week?

362 mm, or 14.26 inches. That's more than twice the monthly average in three days.

Here's the same data for Kobe: Average July: s .150 mm, 215 mm in three days.

Here's an idea: when a whole bunch of rain falls in a short time, the water containment infrastructure literally gets swamped, and fails, and people die.

Here's another idea: the climate is changing. Some part of the world get more and intense rain, while other parts get less of both.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I blame this directly on

Complacency and tendency to ignore evacuation orders ( they do need to be switched to mandatory) Bad management and non existing maintenance and capacity planning ( The whole area is flooded REGULARLY )

3.Partly, suspecting that number 2 is left on purpose, because nothing lines up local gov pockets better than disaster funds.... ( no direct proof but seems a logical conclusion based on how "well" Fukushima recovery was going )

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Japan still builds houses wrong. Most houses do not sit on proper foundations and any house built more than 30 years ago is exceptionally flimsy with tile roofs far too heavy for the overall framing. Granted, this wouldn't prevent any house, save for one with maybe 3' or 4' stub walls, from being swept off it's foundation in the face of a 5' wall of mud, but you wouldn't see near the level of damage you do now form mudslides, earthquakes and tsunami.

This sounds like knowledge from the kitchen table so I'll add some too. Every year we see in Europe crying and desperate Americans in front of their flattened wooden shacks after a tornado hit. One thinks can't these cowboys build proper houses in those areas for example based on concrete frames so that a tornado can just blow the windows out and the roofs away. Same kind of 'knowledge' although mine makes more sense :)

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Here's another idea: the climate is changing. Some part of the world get more and intense rain, while other parts get less of both.

The Leader of the Free World doesn't believe that this is happening as well as at least 62 million of his followers :)

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

NetgrumpJuly 11  04:57 pm JST This sounds like knowledge from the kitchen table

Nope. I'm in the business. My master's thesis was on housing in Japan and I've been in residential construction for more than 20 years, including 3 years in Japan in the '90s.

so I'll add some too. Every year we see in Europe crying and desperate Americans in front of their flattened wooden shacks after a tornado hit . . .

Can't argue with you about the idiocy of stick frame building on the Great Plains and have always puzzled as to why power lines are still above ground anywhere along the Gulf or SE Atlantic seaboard.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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