Rescue workers desperately search for survivors in aftermath of Japan floods

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Police arrive to clear debris scattered on a street in a flood hit area in Kumano, Hiroshima prefecture on July 9, 2018. Rescue workers in Japan battled on July 9 to reach residents trapped after devastating rains that have killed at least 75 people, as authorities warned about the risk of landslides. (AFP PHOTO / Martin BUREAU)

Some 200 people have been confirmed dead following last weekend’s record rainfall in western Japan. Thousands have been displaced. Many are in need of medical assistance and safe, drinking water.

Dozens of people are thought to be still missing. While hopes of them being found alive are fading, search and rescue efforts aren’t slowing down. CGTN’s Barnaby Lo filed this report from Hiroshima.

For days now, Masumi Fujita has done little but worry about his girlfriend. She was at home on Friday night when torrential rains started pouring down on western Japan. Fujita was on his way home and spoke to her on the phone. But an hour later, he could no longer reach her.

“She’s missing because of a series of unfortunate events. Now that I think about it, I could have intervened in one of those events. There’s a chance I could have prevented the tragedy,” he said.

Masumi’s girlfriend is one of the few still missing from their village in Hiroshima. Three days of heavy downpour set off landslides in different parts of the prefecture, killing scores of people. Search and rescue workers have been digging through rubble, looking for bodies, and maybe, just maybe, survivors.

Over 70 people have been confirmed dead in Hiroshima alone, mostly due to landslides. However, there could be more as the search for the missing continues. Rescue teams are taking advantage of sunshine, clearing the worst-hit communities of boulders that the rain sent crashing down on homes. They’re also clearing debris from whatever left of the houses.

“I walked up from the bottom of the hill towards where my house was, and when I looked up where my house was supposed to be, the only thing I saw was the foundation,” Fujita said.

Rain or shine, the search efforts have been relentless. The Japanese government has earmarked more than $630-million for reconstruction.

“We will put all our efforts into rebuilding people’s lives in the disaster-hit areas as soon as possible,’ Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

Fujita hopes to rebuild the life he’s shared with his girlfriend, and is holding on to what little hope there is of finding her­ alive.