Torrential rains in southwest Japan have led to landslides that claimed the life of one person and left three others missing. As a result, authorities have called on tens of thousands of residents to evacuate their homes due to the risk of further landslides and flooding. This occurrence comes amidst a series of heavy rainfall events happening globally, raising concerns about the impact of climate change.
Satoshi Sugimoto, the director of the forecast division at Japan’s weather bureau, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), stated during a press conference that the intensity of the rainfall was unprecedented. NHK, the public broadcaster, reported that a woman in her 70s died when a landslide struck her house in the Fukuoka prefecture. Additionally, three individuals were reported missing after another landslide hit two homes in Saga prefecture.
On Kyushu island, the Fukuoka and Oita prefectures were issued the highest-level heavy rain warning. The land ministry reported that at least eight rivers had overflowed and numerous mudslides occurred. This region was previously hit by heavy rainstorms in July 2017, resulting in the loss of many lives.
Media reports indicated that parts of Fukuoka received over 500 mm of rain since Friday, surpassing the average rainfall for the entire month of July. Sugimoto added that an additional 200 mm of rain was expected until early Tuesday. Due to the heavy rain, Toyota Motor Corp announced the suspension of night-shift operations at three factories in Fukuoka.
Despite the adverse weather conditions, production lines at Sony Group, Renesas Technology, and Nissan Motor were unaffected. However, the inclement weather caused power outages in 6,740 households and left 80 homes without water, according to government spokesperson Hirokazu Matsuno.
The Shinkansen bullet train service between Hiroshima and Fukuoka’s Hakata stations was temporarily halted but resumed by mid-morning. This disruption had a significant impact on transportation in the affected areas.
In addition to the current weather events, the JMA revealed on Monday that there is a 90 percent chance of the El Nino phenomenon continuing into the autumn. El Nino refers to the warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific. For Japan, El Nino usually means increased rainfall and snowfall. JMA chief Masanori Obayashi emphasized the importance of preparedness for further torrential rain throughout the year, even extending beyond the typical summer wet season.
The recent heavy rainfall and resulting landslides in Japan highlight the growing concern about the effects of climate change. As extreme weather events become more frequent and severe, it is crucial for authorities and communities to take appropriate measures to mitigate the impact and ensure the safety of residents. Monitoring and understanding climate patterns, as well as implementing resilient infrastructure, are vital steps in adapting to the changing climate.