Typhoon no. 12 whirled north over Shikoku and Kansai starting September 1st, lasting several days. The lingering did the damage, I’m told. That the typhoon wasn’t pushed onward with any haste is the reason so much water accumulated. In Hongu–though Hongu was certainly not the only place affected–the water rose to flood levels, then to bad flood levels, then to rooftop flood levels. Power was out, cell phone signal was gone, even water was cut off. Cars and parts of buildings were under water.
Just so you know, I was not in Hongu for any of this. I showed up 10 days later. I lived in Tanabe (rent-free) with a gracious ALT who put me up until the Board of Education allowed me to return home to Hongu.
Landslides destroyed important roads–important because in a small town one road can be nearly the only access available from one area to another, short of tiny mountain paths. As news rolled in after I arrived, the death toll numbered in the tens (I think it was around 50). Shit was not good.
Locals tell me it was the worst flood in 60 years. Hongu is prone to flooding, the water rising to unfavorable levels just a few months ago. But it was especially rough this time.
This connects my district of Hongu to the area with the tiny grocery store. It was very important that this road open up, and finally did, looking like this. It’s still in this condition–half paved, with a temporary traffic light in place, blocking one direction at a time.
This is an interesting side-view that allows us to see how high the mud piled up on top of the rice fields. The gunk rose almost to the top of the plants, as you can see.
In that same rice field, garbage and various items were tossed into this pile, now dried up, but clearly still dirty. This is next to a small stream that was surely completely submerged at the height of the typhoon’s flood.
The foot of the massive torii Shinto gate across the street from my house.
My home, by the way, is elevated completely above the highest waters, and was therefore not damaged. For that, I was fortunate.
A lot of rice was killed by the mud.
Inside the beautiful, relatively new World Heritage Center, furniture was taken outside to wash, while documents, books, and folders were laid out to dry. Those bumps in the floor in the background are warped wood. I imagine being under water for a couple of days and then drying caused this. This building is still not in full use as I write this.
This is the local town hall’s (where I work) parking lot. It’s covered in dried mud. It might not look like it did much damage, but the feeling you get when you walk through your town and ever sidewalk, every parking lot looks just like this, makes you realize how clean towns typically are. I mean, they typically aren’t caked in mud.
You can see how deep the muck got in this parking lot–lower in altitude than the one above.
I don’t entirely get why this wood debris settled stuck in the side of a bridge like this.
This is the first floor of the building where I’m based. It’s higher than the buildings on Hongu’s main street, but still get four to five feet of water. (The education office–and my desk–is on the second floor.) So here, for about a week, I worked distributing relief goods, donated materials like clothes and food and cleaning supplies, to people who needed them. I was fortunate to get food, work boots, and some other items by the generosity of others. Relief materials are still being distributed daily at a local gymnasium, where I went to work until two weeks ago.
It was a grim situation for a long time. But posting this information so late allows me to skip forward in time for you. Now, people are doing better. School has started again. I have my desk back. Businesses are slowly stocking their shelves again. Most of the sidewalks are cleaned up. The river water isn’t entirely a filthy brown. More and more important highways are opening up, allowing people to get out of Hongu and into areas like Tanabe and Shingu without taking hour-long detours through scary, winding mountain roads.
So now, the town is beginning to come back. Everyone in town–and many volunteers from out of town–worked very hard to recover this quickly. Morale is back up. I hope further recovery is ahead of us!