Hiroshima landslide – 3 years on

The article that appeared below yesterday about the third anniversary of the Hiroshima landslide – I posted a series of posts about it in August 2014 (which still holds the record for the largest number of posts in any one month) – was a reminder that it has been almost 3 years since I received any real news about my son.  It is preposterous that this is so and that the UK government shows no tangible interest in the issue of ongoing and historical international parental child abduction in Japan.

Hiroshima remembers victims of deadly landslides on third anniversary of the disaster

KYODO

A memorial service was held Sunday in Hiroshima to commemorate the third anniversary of the landslides that claimed the lives of 77 people.

“I don’t want anyone else to become a victim or a person feeling like us,” said 77-year-old Takako Miyamoto, one of the speakers at the event. She lost her husband after torrential rain triggered landslides in residential areas close to mountains in the city early on Aug. 20, 2014.

“It is really painful and sad. Our lives were ruined after losing everything dear to us, homes destroyed,” said Miyamoto, who was seriously injured in the landslide.

Touching on recent natural disasters including the torrential rain in Kyushu last month, she said she “sincerely hopes that no one else dies in a disaster.”

Three years ago, about 400 houses were either washed away or damaged by the landslides that struck Hiroshima.

“Residents are providing mutual support and the work to protect each other has progressed,” Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui said at the ceremony. “We’d like to support these efforts.”

Jointly hosted by the Hiroshima municipal and prefectural governments, the event was held in Asakita Ward, one of the hardest-hit areas.

Families and residents visited the devastated sites early Sunday to offer flowers and pray for those who died. Some touched the names of victims listed on a monument, while others tearfully clasped hands.

Hina Sawamoto, a 16-year-old high school student in the city of Hiroshima, lost her grandmother after a mudslide smashed into her house that day. She sometimes recalls the mudslide when it rains heavily and becomes worried that disaster may strike again.

The teenager said she wants to give a helping hand to those affected by the downpours in Kyushu, just as she was helped by volunteers after the disaster in Hiroshima.

She went to Oita Prefecture last month with her father, Yasuhiro, 46, and helped a family whose house had been swept away by a mudslide. “I was supported by many people. So I wanted to show my gratitude,” she said.

Although she was helping out, Sawamoto said she did not really get to talk with the victims. “Sometimes people want to be left alone. I know how they were feeling.” At the time of the disaster, residents in the devastated area had not been informed of the landslide risk, as many of the sites were not designated within the warning zone in accordance with the law on prevention of landslide disasters.

Afterward, the state revised the law and obliged prefectural governments to swiftly make public the results of basic investigations of terrain and geological conditions. The revised law took effect in January 2015.

According to the Hiroshima Prefectural Government, emergency work since the disaster to make 57 locations more resistant to landslides was completed in May this year.

The prefecture is expected to designate around 50,000 locations as landslide warning zones, but only about 40 percent of the areas had been so designated as of Aug. 10.

Source:  “Hiroshima remembers victims of deadly landslides on third anniversary of disaster”, The Japan Times, 20 August 2017

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Hiroshima landslide: update (6)

Exactly 4 weeks have now passed since the landslide in my son’s city and almost 3 weeks have passed since I received the news that he is safe notwithstanding events there.  I said that it would post about this issue again.  News of the landslide has now faded not only from the headlines in Japan but also from the news generally.  According to the Wall Street Journal blogs site on 3 September 2014, the number of dead now stands at 72 with 2 people still missing; I have not been able to find anything more recent than this.  At least the death toll will be somewhat less than the earlier ‘missing’ figures suggested.  Local evacuation ‘advisories’ are reported as having been lifted.  This article from 2 September 2014 contains a series of close-up photographs which show some of the devastation in local neighbourhoods at close quarters.

Given the severity of what happened and the fact that lessons were not learned from the previous (and less deadly) Hiroshima landslide in 1999, one has to hope that the issue has not also slipped from the consciousness of decision makers in Hiroshima and elsewhere in Japan, given that Hiroshima-ken is particularly prone to this sort of incident.  Since I last posted on the issue, the only other significant coverage as regards the need for better readiness – and more common-sense positioning of residential properties – was this letter on 3 September 2014 in The Japan Times.  Change can be slow in Japan but this is one of those issues where that is not a good thing.

End of Summer 2014

Hello Hugo

It is the last day of August today so summer will soon become autumn and autumn will soon again quickly evolve into another winter, the season that you and I were both born in.  So ends your third summer living in Japan.  You spent a total of three summers in the UK (2009, 2010 (to 4 July) and 2011) so it has now been three summers in each country.  True to form, the weather in the UK is already beginning to turn sour.

August 2014 saw a bad landslide in Hiroshima which will, no doubt, be spoken of for years to come – it already has its own Wikipedia page.  I was really happy and relieved to hear that you were ok and did my best from the UK to find out what I could as quickly as I could from the moment that I became aware of the landslide.  Because of the landslide, August 2014 has unexpectedly been the busiest month so far in terms of blog posts since I set up this site in November 2012:  there have been 12 posts this month, including this one, and this post will be the 80th in total.  So it seems to be a good moment to review the blog.

Here are some facts about your blog:

  • The blog now has two external links to it of which I am aware – this and this.
  • The blog enjoys a respectable and steadily growing number of followers; these are largely people who I do not know but to whom I am very grateful for their interest in regard to you in Japan.
  • The blog statistics provided by WordPress tell me that the blog is read most in the UK (but that is because I look at it a lot myself so this does not really count) followed by, in order of country, Japan and the United States.  Until this month the most hits after the UK were in the US but Japan is now (just and as of August 2014) in second place with the US very close behind.  The blog has also been read in a large number of other countries.
  • The blog has also meant that some other parents with sons and/or daughters in Japan in the same or similar situations have contacted me through the blog’s contact page to give advice and, best of all, encouragement; some of them have their own blogs or websites in respect of their own children. I have heard from parents in Japan itself, the UK, continental Europe, the United States and Canada. A number of these cases have attracted media attention and one person who contacted me has published a book about his experiences.  I am very grateful to these parents for what they have said to me; a number of them, seeing the photos on the blog, have remarked what a fine looking son I have and how proud I must be – as indeed I am.

Autumn is always beautiful and temperate in Japan – although I am sad not to be able to see you, and although I utterly deprecate the legal settlement that prevents me from doing anything about it, you are a fortunate young man to live in such a beautiful country.

You turn six later this year and will, therefore, start elementary (we call it ‘primary’ in the UK) school in Japan in (I believe) April 2015.  I will, of course, write a lot more about this between now and then but, when you get to read this blog, you can check out my elementary school here. I left there aged 11 back in 1989.

Make the most of the opportunities available to you in Japan Hugo and, until next time, take care.

 

Hiroshima landslide: update (5)

The situation in Hiroshima as at today is that the total number of dead now still stands at just over 70, as indicated in my previous post; there does not seem to have been any update on this. Amidst all the suffering, there are some signs of hope, even normalcy. There are reports in The Japan Times that the municipal authorities, criticized for not pre-empting this night-time disaster with timely warnings, have started to provide emergency housing and even psychiatric assistance (this from a country notoriously hesitant in recognising mental health issues) to those in need.  There was also an editorial today calling on the authorities to face up to the need for disaster prevention and damage limitation in a timely manner; it seems that lessons still need learning.

More encouraging still is this article about the opportunity to volunteer on the ground by helping with the clean-up effort to get the community back on its feet.  The article, which is worth reading in full, made me think that this sort of commendable thing would never be allowed to get off the ground in the UK because, despite all the talk of David Cameron’s Big Society, it would be deemed too much of a public liability risk. The straight-forward idea of ‘blowing a whistle’ to give warning of any further landslides would leave the health and safety jobsworths in the UK incredulous.  What has happened in Hiroshima, and the reaction of these volunteers and their encouragement by the authorities, is an example to us all.  At least my son lives amongst some good people.

‘Encouraged’ as I was the day before yesterday by the Consulate-General in Osaka, I received this update on my son from his mother at the time (UK) and on the date indicated below:

**********

Subject: Re: Hugo
From: [email address removed]
Date: Fri, 29 Aug 2014 06:40:00 +0900
To: [email address removed]

Richard
Hugo was not affected and he is safe and well.
Masako
**********
That was the long and short of it and the above has not been abridged in any way save for the removal of the direct email addresses.  But at least I now have the absolute confirmation that I have sought in this series of posts.
I will post again on this issue when there is further local news.

 

Hiroshima landslide: update (4)

Finally, as a report earlier today states that the death toll has surpassed 70 and looks set to rise to 80-something, I have received a reply of sorts, set out below, from the Consulate General.

As indicated before, I also raised with the Consulate General a query regarding the renewal of my son’s fairly recently-expired British passport.  I will post more on this later, after receiving the response on the point as it is obviously a matter of some importance to my case and others.

**********

From: [name removed]
Sent: ‎27/‎08/‎2014 02:46
To: [email address removed]
Subject: [removed]

Dear [name removed]

I have called the mother on Monday but no one answered the phone.

So I have sent her an e-mail instead on Monday and received her reply today on 26th.

In her e-mail she didn’t answer your question on whether Hugo kun is safe and said that she would like to receive an e-mail directly from you not via the Consulate as she is sincere in replying to your inquiry/question.

Please note that as of 25th August there is no British on the list of dead/missing persons.

I will reply to you separately on your passport questions.

Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,

[name removed] | Pro-Consul | British Consulate-General Osaka | Epson Osaka Building 19F | 3-5-1 Bakuro-machi | Chuo-ku | Osaka 541-0059 | Japan |

Tel: + 81 (0)6 6120 5600 |  FTN 8461 5603 | Fax: + 81 (0)6 6281 1731 |   www.gov.uk/world/japan

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