Damage Report

First off, me and mine are OK. I know the rest of the world can hardly be expected to notice yet another typhoon hitting our little island this year, but let me tell you, this one was by far the worst. It has caused destruction on a scale I have not seen in person since the Hanshin earthquake almost a decade ago (although, luckily, it wasn’t nearly as destructive as that).
The big river that runs through Sumoto overflowed for the first time in anyone’s memory (perhaps the first time, ever), as did most of its branches and tributaries. The city, for the most part, was not prepared for flooding on this scale as it simply had never happened before.
The peak of the flooding was around the time I made my last post yesterday, although in my house we weren’t even aware of it save for news reports. Luckily, we live far enough away from the water and on a slight rise, which made all the difference. People living near the rivers, especially those on lower ground and geographic depressions were hit very hard. My brother and I walked around my neighborhood late last night after the typhoon had left, and were fairly shocked to see the extent of the flooding.
All of the bridges had soggy reeds and various other debris caught on the railings and lamp posts indicating the depth of their submersion at one point. People had started hosing and sweeping mud out of their houses and small shops, a sight we would see throughout the rest of our walk. Along the river bank, we came upon an old lady in tears, whose entire house had been inundated with river silt. She was fishing out what muddy possessions she could and hanging them on the frame of her ancient bicycle. We wanted to offer a hand, but she just glared at us and didn’t want to be bothered. We walked on. Further upstream, a man was dumping plastic jerrycans filled with kerosene into the river (which at that point had receded somewhat but was still flowing much swifter than usual). I caught snippets of what he was saying to someone in the house and it appeared he was angry because the river water had contaminated the fuel. In a frustrated rage, he was tossing the tainted jerrycans in the river as if to say, here, just take it all you hungry bitch.
We came up to our recently-discovered neighborhood bar where we are on close terms with the master, Hirata-san. He was inside, so we stepped in to talk. The wooden floor was covered in mud, and the place had obviously been hit pretty hard by the floodwater. Hirata-san was in a daze, and just kept repeating, “I don’t know where to start (the cleanup) from.” His story of the flooding explained the state of mind we found him in:
Between 3 and 4 in the afternoon, he had been taking precautions just in case the flooding got much worse when all of a sudden he was standing waist-deep in the river of brown water that rushed through the front door. Right before his eyes, all of the refrigerators, sound system components, the DVD projector, almost everything was ruined.
It was kind of hard to say anything – what do you say when someone loses their livelihood like that – but I was kind of worried about him. So we stuck around for a while and discussed the merits of immediately washing out as much mud as possible before it dried vs. saying “fuckit,” ripping out the floor panels at leisure, and starting all over. I think we’ ll go by and check on him again tonight.
On the way to work today I wasn’t so surprised to find that there were neighborhoods hit harder than mine, but the amount of devastation was unreal. All the streets are covered in slippery mud, causing serious traffic problems. Every house and every shop along both sides of the main river got flooded. The bad areas look like small lakes still. The places lucky enough to be on higher ground so the water could drain away after the storm were left with several inches of stinky river silt left on their floors.
The Self-Defense Force guys got called down from the base in Himeiji to help out, and they were out in numbers. What the fuck for I still don’t know, because they were mostly just looking at cars that fell into the river and smoking cigarettes, just like everyone else. I suppose they might have brought some some engineers for damage assessment or something, but from their pressed and decidedly un-muddied uniforms, they obviously weren’t getting their hands dirty. Maybe they are doing some good, though. We’ll see.
It took me an hour to get to my office, and in that time I saw:
A broken bridge
A hundred people shoveling mud out of their front door
Several cars stuck in mudholes, some so deep only the roof was protruding
1 old man on a scooter slip on the mud and eat shit on a curve – the mud also saved him by padding his fall
A fleet of pump-mounted trucks draining the graveyard, which is very unfortunately shaped like a bowl
Two vans that had tipped over and fallen into a flooded rice paddy
A meter-thick stone pillar snapped in half by god knows what and laying across the road
A yellow 350Z being fished from the river
An empty showroom at the Nissan dealer (makes you wonder doesn’t it?)
One of my coworkers was hit hard last night. His house is apparently “buried” in mud. I am proud of my company today because they sent most of the people from my office, including our section manager, to help him out. I wonder if this is standard practice or not. Either way, I’m proud they are taking care of their own in this case.

9 thoughts on “Damage Report”

  1. wow!
    i’m glad you’re well
    we had some flooding here in turin (italy) in 2002 and i 2000, so i understand what you feel and can imagine what you saw!
    keep it strong!!! man there will be better days soon 😐

  2. Geez, it is good that you, Nam and Adam are safe and sound but it’s hard to hear that others are way less fortunate. What the bejezuz is up with all the typhoons and bad storms hitting Japan this year?? Keep Safe!

  3. The other thought I had was this: many have complained about the “concrete rivers” in Japanese cities, but I wonder how bad the flooding would have been had there not been so much engineering of river systems within major Japanese metropolises (metropoli?)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *