Background of Incident
On 3 Jul 2018, Typhoon Prapiroon passed Japan, bringing heavy rain and winds to southwestern Japan. From 4 Jul 2018 onwards, areas such as Kobe, Fukuyama, Iizuka, and Ureshino experienced record levels of rain. The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) issued ‘emergency heavy rain warnings’ and evacuation orders for around 4.72 million people. The rain triggered landslides and flash flooding across Western Japan, beginning with the Kansai region. The flooding decimated residences and destroyed roads.
Current Situation and Gravity of Incident
On 6 Jul, JMA issued an ‘Emergency Warning for heavy rainfall’ to Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Okayama, Hiroshima, Tottori, Kyoto, and Hyogo Prefectures. On 8 Jul, Kochi and Ehime was added to the list. An ‘Emergency Warning’ is intended for extraordinary phenomena of a scale that far exceeds the warning criteria that occurs only once every few decades according to the JMA website.
The death toll has risen to 141 as of 10 Jul 2018, the highest caused by rainfall since 1983, with casualties observed in Hiroshima, Ehime, Okayama, Yamaguichi, Kyoto, Gifu, Shiga, Hyogo, Kochi, and Fukuoka prefectures.
The situation is dire enough such that Prime Minister Abe cancelled his planned diplomatic trip to four countries in Europe and the Middle East from 11 Jul to 18 Jul in order to oversee the emergency response.
While the rain is reported to show signs of letting up and the warnings have since been downgraded as of 10 Jul 2018, authorities warn that the downpours have caused earth to be loosened, creating a significant landslide risk.
Advice for Travellers
Travel advisories and alerts have been issued by the United States, Canada, and Australia. Travellers are advised to avoid all unnecessary travel to the affected regions. Travellers intending to travel to, or are already in the affected regions are advised to monitor local weather reports and follow the directions of local officials, including evacuation orders.
Train services to Okayama, Hiroshima, and the Northern region of the Hyogo Prefecture have been suspended indefinitely. Trains in Kansai, Hokuriku and Sanyo Shinkansen areas are operating as normal. Travellers commuting by road have been warned that the roads in affected areas may also be damaged by floods and pose a hazard to drivers.