Japanese PM Shinzo Abe promises to help victims of floods; death toll up to 25

A resident walks across a damaged bridge in a flooded area in Asakura city, Japan.
A resident walks across a damaged bridge in a flooded area in Asakura city, Japan.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday (July 12) visited a region devastated by flooding over recent days and promised that the government would do everything possible to help rebuild the area.

Torrential rain that began a week ago set off landslides and sent rivers surging over their banks on the south-western island of Kyushu, at one point forcing more than 400,000 people from their homes.

Twenty-five people were killed and 23 are still missing.

Mr Abe, whose support has plunged to its lowest level since he took office in 2012, cut short a European tour by a day because of the disaster and went to visit the region less than 24 hours after returning to Japan.

"I was able to talk with people in evacuation centres and hear their worries and troubles," said Mr Abe. "The government will make every effort to rebuild so that people can resume their former lives without worries."

About 11,000 soldiers, police and firefighters are combing through mud and piles of logs in the largely rural area, searching for the missing.


"We finally found my wife, and held her funeral yesterday," one man, his chin dusted with stubble, told NHK public television. "There's nothing left of the house."

Mr Abe knelt down to talk to survivors sitting on the floor of the evacuation centre, and he also inspected the site of a destroyed railway bridge.

One woman told the media that Mr Abe had shaken her hand and commiserated with her about how tough things must be.

"We want him to work hard for Japan," she said.