Japan official criticised for piggyback ride over puddle in typhoon-hit town

Mr Shunsuke Mutai being carried across a large puddle of water.
Mr Shunsuke Mutai being carried across a large puddle of water. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

TOKYO (AFP) - A senior Japanese politician is under fire after getting a piggyback ride across a large puddle while inspecting the deadly aftermath of a typhoon - and joking he could get in trouble for doing it.

Mr Shunsuke Mutai, the parliamentary vice-minister for reconstruction, was visiting the hard-hit northern town of Iwaizumi where 19 people died in the devastating Typhoon Lionrock.

Mr Mutai, 60, was shown riding on the back of a younger man over a large puddle of streaming water on Sept 1 while leading a central government damage assessment team.

Clad in a blue work uniform and black shoes, he was apparently trying to avoid getting his feet wet. Most other accompanying officials wore long rubber boots for protection.

 
 

"I'll be in trouble if this is caught on camera," Mr Mutai is heard saying on footage aired on private broadcaster TBS after being put down.

Mr Yoshihide Suga, Japan's top government spokesman, on Monday called Mr Mutai's conduct "inappropriate" and said he should have brought along a pair of boots given his role as head of the government investigation team.

Iwaizumi, in Iwate prefecture, was the hardest hit area. Among the dead there were nine people buried inside a residence home for the elderly that was overwhelmed by mud and debris that flowed inside from a surging river.

Overall, 22 people died as a result of the typhoon, one of a series that recently struck northern Japan.

State Minister for Disaster Management Jun Matsumoto said on Tuesday that as Mr Mutai's supervisor, he was "sorry", and stressed his conduct was "inappropriate as it lacked consideration for people and areas hit by the disaster".

Mr Mutai, a Member of Parliament, has said that he "deeply regrets" his behaviour.

Just a little over a week earlier in India, a senior politician was intensely mocked after photos showed policemen carrying him through ankle-deep muddy water while inspecting deadly floods.