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August 04, 2021

Message from Junko Edahiro

Message from Junko Edahiro

A landslide struck the Izusan district of Atami

At 11 a.m. on July 3 (Saturday), a landslide struck the Izusan district of my home town of Atami City.
Since then nearly a month has passed.
The disaster occurred about a 15 minute walk from my house.
The site is also along my marathon route, so I was speechless when I saw video footage of the scene.

I'm grateful to say that neither the area I live nor my office were damaged.
However, as I write this (July 20), 18 deaths have been confirmed and the search continues for more victims. About 400 people are still living in evacuation, staying at hotels and other accommodations.
Some people I know personally had their homes swept away, and some residents have sprung into action to help others even while they themselves are still in evacuation mode.

The disaster site has steep slopes so residents are still not able to get close.
Even so, the huge scale of the disaster is obvious from the sight of the many trees that were washed into the sea near my home after the disaster struck.
Even now, emergency response and support vehicles can be seen driving through town, including Self-Defense Forces and fire department crews from other prefectures. I never before imagined that the very place I live would be described as a "disaster area." My heart goes out to the people affected by the disaster.

Atami Mudslide Disaster Support Team Facebook group

After the disaster struck, I set up the "Atami Mudslide Disaster Support Team" Facebook group.
I did this because I sensed there was a need to connect people with information.
We did what we could to convey share information on the actions of the government(s) and community, and to gather information about people who needed assistance and those who could provide it. The group has grown to over 1,200 members and new comments come in every day.
It is inspiring to know people are out there concerned about the situation and offering support.

Atami is a tourist town. The fisheries are also a major industry here. Because of that, I sense this disaster will have big impacts on the local economy.
Hoping to support it, with my company's online shop I started selling sets of seafood products, with a donation included in the purchase. Thankfully, many people are buying. We are also collecting donations at my company's cafe.

We are also holding regular meetings with people who are locally active providing assistance, and promoting information sharing and collaboration.

The big challenge going forward will be how to restore lives, livelihoods, dynamism and community connections once people gradually start returning to the affected area.
It will also be important to provide emotional support for the local children and youth.
I hope we can encourage actions by locals and others who are supporting them, not only with emergency support, but also actions in the medium and longer term to recover and restore, and to bring back the local dynamism and economy.

Also, I would like to bring attention not only to the issues in front of us, but what is really important. I think the causes of this disaster were the unprecedented days of heavy rains, falling on an area where land use changes such as a megasolar project and soil being piled up led to the slope losing its water retention capacity.

Damage from torrential rains is occurring not only in Atami but various other places around Japan.

Canada is experiencing record high temperatures. These could be seen as warning bells telling us that global warming is under way.
They are telling us that we need awareness and action not only to stop the progress of global warming, and we need to expand the efforts. I believe that this is one way we can learn from the disaster in Atami and work to prevent the next disaster from happening.

Thank You Board for Self-Defense Forces and fire department crews

I send a heartfelt thank you to everyone who sent messages of concern and support after the disaster.
I hope that you will continue to lend us your support!

Junko Edahiro, in Atami, Japan

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