Photo/IllutrationSelf-Defense Force members and other rescue workers search for a missing person at the site of a landslide in Soo, Kagoshima Prefecture, on July 4. (The Asahi Shimbun)

The torrential rain that hit the city of Kagoshima on Aug. 6, 1993, known as the "8.6 Suigai" (flood disaster), killed 48 and left one missing.

I was stationed at The Asahi Shimbun's Kagoshima Bureau at the time. To this day, the scenes of devastation I witnessed remain etched in my memory.

Cars were being washed away in piles. A derailed train was twisted out of shape. And my ground-floor apartment got flooded.

The recent series of downpours across the southern island of Kyushu must have reminded many Kagoshima residents of the disaster 26 years ago.

Rain-swollen rivers have flooded and a spate of landslides have taken place. Experts say that the intermittent rains, going on for days, are similar in pattern to the 8.6 disaster.

And that was also the pattern of the drenching rains that fell in western Japan almost a year ago. The loss of too many lives belatedly taught people the critical importance of early evacuation.

Have they learned from the previous catastrophes and gone to designated evacuation centers or higher ground without delay?

Evacuation advisories or orders were issued to more than 1.9 million residents in Kagoshima, Miyazaki and Kumamoto prefectures.

The evening edition of The Asahi Shimbun quoted a worried evacuee as saying, "The mountain behind my home may collapse. But I can't stay at the evacuation center forever. ..."

In Soo, Kagoshima Prefecture, the body of an elderly woman was recovered from her home that was buried in a landslide.

People who evacuated, but whose homes were spared damage, may later have felt like kicking themselves for "jumping the gun" unnecessarily.

But on the contrary, they should be congratulating themselves. Where any life-and-death decision is concerned, one can never be too hasty or too cautious.

The Japanese expression "tsuyu-yami" (rainy season gloom) implies that during tsuyu, even daylight hours remain dark under heavy rain clouds.

Weather forecast maps for the coming week show that the sun will not be out in most parts of Japan.

Patience and caution are in order until the nation emerges from the gloom.

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 5

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.