Earthquakes, rains, heatwave, typhoon: Japan's brutal summer of 2018

People looking at an area damaged by an earthquake in Sapporo, Hokkaido, on Sept 6, 2018.
People looking at an area damaged by an earthquake in Sapporo, Hokkaido, on Sept 6, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO - Japan may be prone to natural disasters, but the summer of 2018 will go down in history books as being exceptionally brutal with a series of extreme events that have rewritten records.

Japan Correspondent Walter Sim takes a look at what the country has had to weather since June.

OSAKA EARTHQUAKE, JUNE 18

- Five dead, over 400 injured.

- Strongest tremor in Osaka since records began in 1923.

The 6.1-magnitude quake ground Japan's second-largest metropolitan area to a halt during the morning rush hour, sparking panic and a surge in fake news - including an escaped zebra and racist accusations that foreigners were looting buildings and poisoning water sources.

A nine-year-old girl on her way to school was crushed by a concrete wall that collapsed, which was later found to be in breach of building regulations. This would prompt nationwide inspections.

HISTORIC RAINFALL, JULY 6-8


Flooded streets caused by heavy rains in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture, on July 8, 2018. PHOTO: AFP 

- About 225 dead in 15 prefectures in western and south-western Japan, with about 10 still missing, due to biblical flooding and landslides.

- The deluge set 72-hour precipitation records by up to three times the average monthly rainfall for July in many areas.

Hiroshima and Okayama prefectures were the hardest hit, as tens of thousands were displaced by flood waters that were over one-storey high or landslides that crushed entire homes. At one point, evacuation orders or advisories were issued for up to 5.9 million people in 19 prefectures.

EXTREME HEATWAVE, JULY TO AUGUST


An electronic thermometer showing the temperature exceeding 40 deg C during a media tour at the construction site for the new National Stadium in Tokyo, on July 18, 2018. PHOTO: AFP 

- At least 133 dead, more than 55,000 treated for heat exhaustion.

- The mercury reached 41.1 deg C in Kumagaya in the Greater Tokyo region on July 23, a national record.

- The Japan Meteorological Agency said 2018 was the hottest summer for eastern Japan since 1946.

"Feels like" temperatures that hit 45 deg C in a prolonged heatwave claimed the lives of many elderly, but also a six-year-old boy who died after a school excursion.

TYPHOON JEBI, SEPT 4


Vehicles piled in a heap due to strong winds in Kobe, Hyogo prefecture, on Sept 5, 2018, after Typhoon Jebi hit the west coast of Japan. PHOTO: AFP

- At least 11 dead, over 600 injured.

- Strongest typhoon to hit Japan in 25 years paralysed major cities in the Kansai region, including Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe.

About 8,000 passengers had been stranded at the inundated Kansai Airport, which is built on a man-made island. Flights were cancelled as runways were flooded, and it had been impossible to return to the city centre as the only bridge connecting the airport to the mainland was damaged after a tanker slammed into it during the storm.

The airport has since partially reopened, on a reduced schedule.

HOKKAIDO EARTHQUAKE, SEPT 6


Police officers and firefighters searching for missing people at a collapsed house following a large landslide caused by an earthquake in Atsuma, Hokkaido, on Sept 8, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

- At least 31 dead, eight missing, over 400 injured.

- Strongest tremor to rock Hokkaido since 1996.

The early morning 6.7-magnitude quake - measuring the maximum seven on the Japanese "shindo" seismic scale - knocked out power to all 2.95 million homes in Hokkaido in what was the first grid-wide power outage for a regional utilities firm.

It left deep cracks in roads and triggered a series of mudslides that buried entire homes in the rural mountainous Atsuma, a town of about 4,700 people.