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Widespread destruction following historic Japan floods

9th July 2018 - Author: Matt Sheehan

Japan has suffered some of the worst flooding in its history over the weekend, with more than 100 people confirmed dead and widespread damage to homes and businesses reported.

Japan flooding

Japan flooding via Reuters

“The record rainfalls in various parts of the country have caused rivers to burst their banks, and triggered large scale floods and landslides in several areas,” said Japan’s Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Sunday.

Many regions of the country have received up to three times the total average rainfall for July since Thursday, with up to 364mm (14.3 inches) of rainfall recorded in just two hours on Sunday morning in the city of Uwajima.

Although no financial loss estimates have been confirmed yet, both domestic insurers and international reinsurers are likely to take a considerable hit and will be watching events closely as the extent of the damage unfolds.

An official at the Japanese Meteorological Agency said: “We’ve never experienced this kind of rain before. This is a situation of extreme danger,” adding that further landslides are possible even as the waters begin to recede.

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Around 73,000 personnel have reportedly been mobilised for search-and-rescue efforts now that the rains have subsided, with up to 79 people thought to still be missing.

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, stated that efforts to locate stranded people had turned into a “race against time,” and said that rescue efforts would “unite and move swiftly to deliver necessities to the disaster victims by coordinating closely with local government.”

The southwestern Hiroshima Prefecture is thought to be the most severely affected region, where more than 40 people have been killed and thousands of homes damaged or destroyed.

As many as 5.9 million people across 19 prefectures were advised to leave their homes at various points over the weekend, and more than 30,000 people are currently staying at emergency evacuation centres.

Additionally, almost 17,000 households are reportedly still without power, and phone lines are down across multiple prefectures.

Flood insurance in Japan is voluntary and generally included in homeowner or commercial property policies, and over half of Japanese homes are thought to be protected by specific flood coverage.

Business interruption losses are also expected to contribute significantly to insured losses, with huge manufacturing companies such as Daihatsu, Toyota and Panasonic forced to temporarily shut down many operations due to the flooding.

Experts have attributed the unusually heavy rainfall to the remnants of a typhoon feeding into a seasonal rainy front, which was exacerbated by an influx of humid warm air from the Pacific.

The situation is comparable to heavy flooding and landslide events in southwestern Japan from last year and 2014, although the damage reported from this weekend’s flooding is far more extensive.

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