Japan storm survivors though worst was over, then it flooded
KAWAGOE, Japan (AP) — After the worst of Typhoon Hagibis passed over this town north of Japan's capital, Kazuo Saito made sure there was no water outside his house and went to bed.
Saito woke up a few times throughout the night to check, but by the time he woke for good on Sunday morning, the view outside his window was almost unrecognizable.
"There was a huge river flowing in front of me," the 74-year-old said.
The storm, which made landfall in the Tokyo region late Saturday, had dumped record amounts of rain that caused rivers to overflow their banks. It turned many neighborhoods in Kawagoe into water and mud covered swamps.
Crews were working across the region to dig through mudslides and search riverbanks for those missing in the storm, which killed almost 50 people and left thousands of homes on Japan's main island flooded, damaged or without power. Some 30,000 people were in evacuation centers.
Saito said he was determined not to evacuate Sunday despite the floodwater because "this is my only home." His wife, Sumiko, thought evacuating at that point was too late and more dangerous.
"I was terrified and my knees trembled," she said.
As they waited, the floodwater gradually subsided, and on Monday they were able to come down from the second floor of their home. They were cleaning their dirt-covered front yard and sorting out mementos and furniture that were damaged when floodwaters reached nearly the ceiling of their garage.
"If I had known the water were to come this high, I could have evacuated them inside the house," Kazuo Saito said.
At a nearby nursing home, dozens of elderly residents were evacuated on rubber boats earlier Monday when the water level was higher, city officials said. On Sunday, more than 120 others stranded at another care home were rescued to evacuate to safer facilities.
The storm was the worst Saito can recall in all his years in Kawagoe. He said a tropical storm in 1999 that flooded more than 3,000 homes only had floodwaters that were waist-high.
"This time, it came up to here," he said, raising his arm above his head and pointing to the dark line left by the floodwater.
Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo.