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A summary of editorials from leading Japanese newspapers (September 1, 2014)

post date : 2014.09.01

A summary of editorials from leading Japanese newspapers, posted biweekly.


Large scale landslides in northern Hiroshima City that were triggered by torrential rain in the predawn hours of Aug. 20 have left more than70 people dead or missing.


The five national dailies wrote about the disaster in their editorials: The Asahi Shimbun (Aug. 22), The Mainichi Shimbun (Aug.21, 23), The Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Aug. 22), The Sankei Shimbun (Aug. 21, 26) and The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 21, 26).


All newspapers addressed the issue of having adequate measures to deal with such heavy downpours—200 millimeters in three hours or equal to 1.5 times the average amount of rainfall the area gets for the whole of August, as the nation is increasingly experiencing torrential rain that falls in narrow ranges of areas. They also stressed the fact that the city government issued an evacuation advisory only after landslides had occurred.


Hiroshima landslide-prone


 Hiroshima Prefecture has the largest number of spots vulnerable to sediment disaster in Japan. But it has been lagging behind in designating warning zones under the sediment disasters prevention law due to manpower shortages and the reluctance of residents who fear the designation would lower their property prices. Most areas hit by the Aug. 20 landslides are not designated as sediment disaster-prone areas.


“Nonetheless, it is serious that such an immense disaster hit areas that had not been listed as being disaster-prone. If more damage like this arises, criticism that the disaster was a man-made calamity could intensify,” The Mainichi said in its Aug. 23 editorial, urging the government and the Diet to boost measures to reduce potential damages from sediment disasters.


The Nihon Keizai Shimbun said it was understandable that the city government hesitated to abruptly issue an evacuation advisory in the wee hours, but added that it should have considered alerting residents about a potential need to evacuate when the Japan Meteorological Agency issued the rain forecast for the region.

“To save lives from sediment disasters, it is an invariable principle to have people evacuate at an early stage,” the economic daily said. “Fully informing residents [about potential landslides] beforehand holds the key to ensuring their swift evacuation.”


The Asahi said introducing a program similar to the one adopted by Kumamoto Prefecture merits consideration. Under the program focused on “preventive evacuations,” when heavy nighttime rainfall is expected, local governments set up evacuation centers in the evening and call for voluntary evacuations. “Even if an evacuation later turns out to have been unnecessary, such actions are meaningful because they make people more conscious of the risks,” the paper said.


The Sankei, meanwhile, stressed the importance of “mutual help” in communities in the event of a disaster. “Allowing elderly people living alone to stay at neighbors’ when heavy rain or a typhoon’s approach is forecast will considerably reduce the risks involved at the time of a disaster,” it said.

The newspaper proposed that from 10 to 20 families in a community act together after discussing how to escape from danger—an action which, it said, will likely save more lives than otherwise.


Personal information disclosed


 The Yomiuri hailed the Hiroshima municipal government’s move to disclose personal information about missing people, including their names, addresses and ages, as an “appropriate action” in its editorial on Aug. 26.


In an about-face, the city, which had refrained from releasing the information saying as it was personal in nature, disclosed it via the media and its website. The newspaper quoted an expert saying, “Disclosure has validity during search and rescue operations when there is no time to lose.”


The Sankei said in its editorial on Aug. 26 that the city government should have disclosed the information much earlier.

“Identifying missing persons is indispensable to maximize efforts in search and rescue operations,” the paper said. “The city had mixed-up priorities if it delayed the disclosure of their names out of consideration for their privacy.”


*English translations of The Yomiuri, The Asahi, and The Mainichi are from The Japan News, The Asia & Japan Watch and The Mainichi, respectively. Those for The Sankei and The Nikkei are provisional. The content of this page was made by the Foreign Press Center/Japan and does not reflect the opinion of the Japanese Government or any other organization.

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