Insight: Japan struggles to rebuild, leaving lives in limbo | Reuters.
Severe storms hit the Midwest on Saturday and are expected later in the Northeast, where flash flooding killed at least four people in Pittsburgh on Friday.
Heavy rains submerged cars in flood water that was nine feet deep in places in Pittsburgh, authorities said.
A mother and her two daughters died when water engulfed their vehicle in a low-lying section of the city’s Washington Boulevard near the Allegheny River.
Kimberly Griffith, 45, and her daughters Brenna, 12, and Mikaela, 8, were pronounced dead at the scene, a spokeswoman for the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office said.
The water pinned their vehicle to a tree and they were unable to escape, authorities said.
Also recovered after the flood was the body of Mary Saflin, 72, who had been reported missing earlier, according to the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office.
The Philadelphia area was also soaked by heavy thunder showers Friday, bringing a record rainfall of 12.95 inches for August, close to the record for any month, according to NWS meteorologist Lee Robertson.
The previous record is from September 1999, set when a hurricane pushed rainfall to 13.07 inches.
As more storms were forecast for the region Sunday, the NWS warned in a flood advisory that nearly half of all flood fatalities are vehicle-related.
“As little as six inches of water will cause you to lose control of your vehicle,” the NWS stated.
The Weather Channel forecast more storms from the Great Lakes to the Central Plains into Saturday night.
One man died as storms and a tornado roared across northern Wisconsin Friday night, cutting an 8-mile-wide swath 65 miles north of Green Bay and taking out power to around 2,000 homes, officials said.
Douglas Brem, 43, was staying in a rented trailer at a recycling center in the path of the storm, which caused extensive damage to homes, Marinette County Coroner George Smith said.
A fierce thunderstorm in the Chicago area Saturday suspended the Chicago Air & Water Show until about 2 p.m., leaving time for a condensed show. The two-day free annual event was expected to attract around 2 million spectators.
Saturday’s thunderstorm threat will shift to the Northeast Sunday.
The Southeastern Virginia Hampton Roads region was spared from severe storm activity, but smoke from a 6,000-acre fire in the Great Dismal Swamp continues to plague the region down into North Carolina.
Virginia’s Environmental Quality Department downgraded Friday’s air quality red alert in some areas to orange, advising of possible health problems for sensitive individuals.
(Additional reporting by John Rondy in Milwaukee, Cynthia Johnston in Las Vegas, Matthew A. Ward in Chesapeake, Va., David Warner in Philadelphia; Writing by Molly O’Toole and Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Jerry Norton)
ACTION PLAN NEEDED
<span class="articleLocation”>More than five months after a massive magnitude 9.0 earthquake and a deadly tsunami ravaged Japan’s northeast coast, the nation has yet to come up with a detailed action plan and the money needed to rebuild the devastated areas.
The following is a summary of where Japan’s rebuilding efforts stand.
DEATH TOLL, EVACUEES AND SHRINKING WORKING-AGE POPULATION
— About 15,690 were killed, 4,740 are missing, and 5,710 were injured.
— Many of about 5.6 million residents of the three prefectures worst hit by the March disaster have lost their homes and the number of evacuees peaked at more than 475,000 on March 14.
— Some 9,900 still live in evacuation shelters while 34,100 are staying in hotels or with relatives or friends and about 40,000 live in temporary housing.
— Japan’s northeast is aging faster than other area of a country whose population is already graying at a rapid pace. By 2030, 31.6 percent of the population is expected to be above 65 in Tohoku, whereas the country-wide estimate is 29.6 percent.
According to BNP Paribas estimates the region’s working population shrunk 8.4 percent over the past 15 years and is expected to decline by further 12.6 percent over the next decade.
— The quake and tsunami left an estimated 22.6 million tonnes of rubble in the coastal towns. Out of that, nearly half has been moved to temporary storage destinations.
— By end-August, the government aims to remove debris from areas where people live and work and this goal is likely to be met. But removal of all rubble and dismantling of damaged buildings will take months, if not years, and the government aims to dispose the stored rubble by end of March, 2014.
— The quake and tsunami destroyed supply chains given that the northeast is home to many manufacturers. Japan’s gross domestic product fell 0.9 percent in the first quarter, tipping the economy into its second recession in three years. But in the second quarter, the economy shrank much less than foreseen as companies made strides in restoring output and is expected to bounce by 1.2 percent this quarter — probably the best performance among major industrialized nations.
— The government initially estimated the material damage from the March 11 disaster at 16-25 trillion yen ($190-$300 billion) but later lowered it to 16.9 trillion yen ($210 billion). The estimated damage is roughly double that from the 1995 Kobe earthquake.
EMERGENCY BUDGET FOR RELIEF
— The government enacted its first extra budget of 4 trillion ($50 billion) in May, and its second emergency budget of 2 trillion ($25 billion) in July.
— The government hopes to pass the third extra budget by the end of September under a new prime minister, though whether this can materialize so quickly is unclear.
DAMAGE TO FISHING AND FARMING
— Northeast Japan is known for fishing and farming. Damages in the fishing industry are estimated at 1.23 trillion yen. About 320 fishing ports, or 11 percent of all fishing ports in Japan, have been closed due to the March disaster and it would take at least another decade for full operations to resume at these ports.
— About 2.6 percent of the total farm area in Japan, or 23,600 Ha, has been washed away or submerged due to the disaster.
— The Japanese Red Cross Society has so far collected 259 billion yen in relief money. Out of this, about 48 percent has been distributed to disaster victims, while the remaining amount is stuck at overburdened local governments.
(Sources: The Cabinet Office’s Reconstruction Headquarters in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, Environment Ministry, Fukushima Prefecture, Miyagi Prefecture, Statistics Bureau, Fisheries Agency, Farm Ministry, Japanese Red Cross Society, Cabinet Office, National Police Agency, Tohoku Trade department)
(Reporting by Yuko Takeo; Additional reporting by Yoko Kubota)