Raging floodwaters broke through a flood berm in Japan today and swamped a city north of Tokyo, washing away houses, forcing dozens of people to rooftops to await helicopter rescues, and leaving one man clinging for his life to a utility pole. There were no immediate reports of casualties, but rescue officials were overwhelmed by pleas for help. As heavy rain pummeled Japan for a second straight day, the Kinugawa River broke through a flood berm at 12:50pm, sending water gushing into the eastern half of Joso, a city of 60,000 people. Aerial footage showed a wide swath of cityscape underwater, more than one-story deep in some places. The rains came on the heels of Tropical Storm Etau, which caused flooding and landslides elsewhere yesterday as it crossed central Japan, leaving 15 people injured and one woman missing.
Japanese broadcasters showed live aerial footage of rescuers being lowered from helicopters and clambering onto second-floor balconies to reach stranded residents. In one dramatic scene, the rescuer descended four times from a military helicopter over 20 minutes to lift up four people one by one, as a deluge of water swept around their home. Nearby a man clung to a utility pole before being pulled up by a rescue worker. Others waved cloths from their decks or roofs to get attention as torrents of water washed away cars and knocked over buildings. Japan's Kyodo News reported that 60 people had been rescued by helicopter, and rescue work was continuing as the sun began to set. The Transport Ministry estimated that up to 6,900 households in a 14 square-mile area could be affected by the flooding. Only about 2,500 of the city's residents had reached shelters by 2pm.