Typhoon Hagibis: Homeless people turned away from disaster shelter as deadly storm approached Japan

Man forced to huddle under umbrella as strongest storm in decades lashes country

Chris Baynes
Tuesday 15 October 2019 17:51
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Streets and cars flooded as Typhoon Hagibis nears Japan

A disaster shelter which turned away homeless people as a devastating typhoon approached has been widely criticised in Japan, where the death toll from the country’s strongest storm in decades has climbed to 66.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe promised an investigation after staff at the evacuation centre in Tokyo refused to let in two men because they did not have addresses in the area. The men were told the shelter was only for residents of Taito ward.

One of the men told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper that “the wing was strong and it was raining” when he turned up at the shelter on Saturday morning.

Evacuees were required to fill in a form with their name and address, but the 64-year-old was turned away after writing: “I have no address.” He instead spent the night huddled under an umbrella, under the awning of a building.

A second homeless man was also denied access to the same shelter, which was set up at a primary school, that afternoon.

Typhoon Hagibis made landfall on Saturday evening, bringing heavy rain and winds up to 140mph.

Many people on social media condemned Taito authorities, with some denouncing their actions as a violation of human rights.

“Is this a country that’s going to host the Olympics in Tokyo?” tweeted one man. “People from abroad would see this and think this is a terrible country.”

Mr Abe, who was asked by an opposition MP about the incident, said shelters “should let anyone in who has come to evacuate”.

“We will look into the facts and take appropriate measures,” he added.

Taito ward said it would review its procedures to help people without addresses.

“We deeply apologise that we dealt with people without addresses insufficiently so that they could not stay at the shelter,” the mayor of the ward, Yukuo Hattori, said in a statement.

“We will cooperate with related parties and consider measures to support all the people at the time of a disaster.”

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The controversy came as rescuers slogged through mud and debris in an increasingly desperate search for missing people as thousands of homes remained without power or water.

Fifteen people remain missing nearly three days after Typhoon Hagibis smashed into central and eastern Japan, national broadcaster NHK reported. More than 200 people were injured in the storm, whose name means “speed” in the Tagalog language.

The highest toll was in Fukushima prefecture, north of Tokyo, where levees burst in at least 14 places along the Abukuma river, which meanders through a number of cities. At least 25 people died in Fukushima, including a mother and child who were caught in flood waters, according to NHK.

About 133,000 households were still without water on Tuesday, while 22,000 had no electricity. The figures were down on the hundreds of thousands initially left without power but still a cause for concern in northern areas where temperatures are falling.

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