Photo/IllutrationDamaged houses covered with blue tarps remain in the dark in Kyonan, Chiba Prefecture, on Sept. 15, one week after Typhoon No. 15 struck the area. (Naoko Kawamura)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

TATEYAMA, Chiba Prefecture--Some residents of southern Chiba Prefecture have given up hope for a government-led recovery one week after Typhoon No. 15 severed their electricity and water supplies and cut communications to the outside world.

People in the Tomisaki district of Tateyama at the southern edge of the Boso Peninsula are surviving on boxed meals or rice balls provided as relief supplies.

Homes and other structures remain in disrepair, exacerbated by continual exposure to the elements. Residents are now resorting to primitive methods to perform daily tasks, such as doing laundry by stomping on their clothes in water in their bathtubs.

Electricity was still not available in the district on the evening of Sept. 15.

“Although one week has passed since (the typhoon) we have neither electric power nor telephone lines connected,” said Etsuro Toyosaki, 70, an executive of a neighborhood association.

“We are grateful for having gas and water. But I cannot sleep well due to anxiety,” he said. “We can no longer hold on.”

About 440 mainly old houses line sloping roads in the fishing village. Many of their roofs and roof tiles were blown off in the Sept. 9 typhoon.

“It’s too late for the central, prefectural and municipal governments to take action,” said Katsumi Semi, 76, head of the community center. “The situation shows that the more serious the damage in the area, the less assistance it receives.”

The roof of Chiyoko Aoki’s warehouse in the area was blown away in the storm, and its interior was flooded.

“The inside cannot be dried and it is almost getting moldy,” Aoki, 68, said. “My car was also severely damaged.”

Many of the district’s residents are elderly and cannot repair their houses or facilities for daily activities on their own.

Heavy equipment and workers arrived here on the morning of Sept. 15 for a full-scale operation to remove debris and repair buildings.

However, the public address system that conveys information to residents still could not be used because of the power outage.

Residents have relied on a local temple’s pick-up truck equipped with a loudspeaker. It moves around the city informing people of when aid supplies arrive and when meals have been prepared at a soup kitchen.

When the sun goes down, the area is engulfed in darkness. Residents are using battery-powered lanterns or candles to light their dinner tables, according to Toyosaki.

He also said that car owners drive for about 30 minutes to reach the downtown area where mobile phone signals are available and they can talk with families or friends.

The tap water system was repaired by Sept. 14 for about 6,800 households that had suffered from cut water supplies in Minami-Boso in the prefecture, but the sense of relief was short-lived.

On the morning of Sept. 15, some households still could not receive water. Among those that did, the tap water was brown and cloudy.

Many people flocked to the municipal government-run community center to seek clean drinking water.

When the power supply was suspended, two water purification plants in the city had to halt operations, according to a municipal government official. One plant is equipped with an emergency generator, but it didn’t work.

Electric power was finally restored on Sept. 11 at one plant and on Sept 13 at the other. But it took a long time for water to reach some households.

Furthermore, rusted steel from the water pipes is being discharged with the water.

“We have experienced power failures in the past, but we did not expect it would take such a long time for us to recover (our water system in this disaster),” said Hiroyuki Sanada, who heads the municipal government’s waterworks department.

Katsuko Koizumi, 61, who lives near one of the water purification plants, opened a faucet in her home and watched as cloudy brown water spilled out.

She said she had no choice but to bathe in that water and use it to do her laundry.

“We are grateful that we can receive water but are disappointed by its color,” Koizumi said. “We have had enough.”

(This article was written by Susumu Imaizumi and Kayoko Sekiguchi.)