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2013年10月19日 (土)

伊豆大島災害 なぜ避難を促さなかったのか

The Yomiuri Shimbun October 19, 2013
Why was no evacuation order issued in Izu Oshima downpours?
伊豆大島災害 なぜ避難を促さなかったのか(10月18日付・読売社説)

Were there no means of preventing a major calamity from occurring?

Because of the extremely heavy rain that accompanied Typhoon No. 26, several communities on Tokyo’s Izu Oshima island were hit by debris flows. The disaster claimed the lives of 22 people and left many missing. The Metropolitan Police Department and other organizations concerned must do their utmost to locate and rescue the missing.

On Tuesday evening, when the typhoon—reported to be the strongest in the last 10 years—was moving north toward the Japanese archipelago, the Japan Meteorological Agency issued heavy rain and mudslide alerts to the Oshima town government on Izu Oshima island.

The alerts, which call for caution regarding mudslides, are considered key information for municipalities involved to use for reference in issuing evacuation advisories or orders, but the Oshima Island municipal authorities issued neither.

The town mayor explained the lack of action was because an evacuation advisory could “lead to an increased number of people exposed to the threat of strong rain at night.”

The rainfall on the island increased sharply shortly after midnight Tuesday. Precipitation in the three hours before dawn on Wednesday reached the second-highest levels in the recorded history of domestic weather. The mudslides occurred around the same time.

Any attempt to evacuate residents in the midst of the violent storm would certainly have been difficult. However, was it impossible for municipal authorities to warn people to get out of danger the previous day when the meteorological agency issued the alerts?

Given that typhoon’s paths are predictable to some extent, there can be lead time to evacuate, unlike such events as tsunami or tornadoes. The town authorities should have taken adequate precautions by recognizing the danger earlier.

Beware of localized disaster

It is possible that the town’s decision-making process was hindered by the fact that both the mayor and deputy mayor of the town were away from the island on a business trip when the typhoon hit.

On Izu Oshima island, there have been many debris flows, including those in the 1958 Kanogawa Typhoon, in which 18 people were killed or injured and 104 houses were destroyed or damaged. It is highly regrettable the lessons of the past calamities failed to be used effectively in the latest disaster to hit the island.

The meteorological agency, for its part, came short of issuing a special warning recently introduced for the purpose of calling for vigilance against the highest level of danger due to rainfall. That was because the rainfall on the island did not meet the requirements for issuing the warning that requires threshold-level precipitation across an extensive area, or an area encompassing most of a prefecture.

Based on this criteria, there can be many cases in which a disaster on a remote island may be excluded from the special warnings. Studies must be done to review the standards of how a similar level of warning could be issued against localized dangers.

Under the law for the prevention of sediment-related, each prefectural government is supposed to designate danger areas as caution zones. When the designation is made, city, town and village governments concerned are obliged to create and make public hazard maps.

The Tokyo metropolitan government, however, has yet to embark on procedures to apply the disaster-prone area designation to islands under its jurisdiction, while the town government of Oshima has failed to make any hazard map covering mudslides.

Designation of caution zones has been delayed nationwide, for reasons including opposition from local residents who worry that such a designation would reduce the value of their homes. Every municipality must redouble their efforts to secure residents’ understanding of the need for the designation.

The calamity on Izu Oshima island should be taken as a warning by everyone living in the nation, which is highly susceptible to disasters.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 18, 2013)
(2013年10月18日01時32分  読売新聞)


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