Many typhoon deaths in Japan occurred while victims traveling in vehicles

The death toll from Typhoon Hagibis rose to 48 on Monday as search-and-rescue teams continued to operate in areas hit by flooding and landslides in central and eastern Japan. Photo by the Kyodo. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

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TOKYO, Oct 28, 2019, Kyodo. Many of the deaths from recent powerful typhoons in Japan occurred while victims were traveling in vehicles, local authorities said Monday, underscoring the need for people to evacuate early and reach safety in plenty of time, reported The Mainichi.

Half of the 10 people who died in Fukushima and Chiba prefectures from heavy rain accompanying Typhoon Bualoi late last week were found inside or near vehicles that had been submerged or swept away by flood water, while 25 of the 87 killed by Typhoon Hagibis earlier this month were also in vehicles.

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

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

The Fukushima prefectural government said a 61-year-old mother was found dead and her 38-year-old son went missing in the city of Soma after their light vehicle was apparently swept away by flood water.

In Nagara, Chiba Prefecture, 88-year-old Choju Iwase was found inside a submerged vehicle after telling his son by phone that he was trapped inside. Iwase was planning to take shelter at his son’s home located on a hill, according to the Chiba government.

Postman Naruo Tsuruoka, 54, in the same town died after his vehicle was swept off a bridge as he was on his way to pick up his 6-year-old son.

Chiba Prefecture’s evacuation guidelines for tsunami say water as deep as 50 centimeters can trap a person inside a vehicle, cause the vehicle float and put it at a risk of being swept away.

The Japan Meteorological Agency urges people not to travel by vehicle when rainfall exceeds 50 millimeters per hour.

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