Disaster Relief Hinokishin Corps Helps Flood Victims

Aichi Diocese’s Disaster Relief Hinokishin Corps worked from September 1 through 7 in the city of Okazaki, the area worst affected by the torrential rain that was caused by an active front associated with a low-pressure system between August 28 and 29. In the Tokai region, where 500,000 households had been urged to evacuate, a total of 13,472 homes and businesses were flooded above or below floor level.

In Okazaki, where five swollen rivers inundated residential areas, a record 146.5 millimeters (5.8 in.) of rain fell in one hour during the morning of the 29th.

On the afternoon of that day, as the waters began to recede, Okazaki District Head Takashi Nakagawa assessed the situation in the city and, seeing the extent of damage, visited the city hall to offer to send in the Disaster Relief Hinokishin Corps. The city government set up its volunteer center on August 31 and requested the help of the corps later that day. From the next morning, corps members worked to remove flood-damaged furniture as well as mud and debris that had flowed into homes.

On September 2, many members worked in Igacho, which is the part of the city where the downstairs of many houses had been completely submerged in floodwaters. Muddy broken furniture lay in the streets, and there was an odor. At the request of a 73-year-old lady, corps members carried her swamped furniture outside and washed the pieces that still looked usable. “An elderly lady who lived behind my house died in the flood,” she said to the members with tears in her eyes. “My precious mementoes were ruined, and I was feeling depressed. But now I am encouraged by your kindness.”

The members who worked in another part of the city called Motonomicho responded to a variety of requests from local residents. A lady in her 40s asked corps members to help remove flood debris. “On weekdays, there aren’t many volunteers,” she said. “Five days after the flooding, my house is still a total mess although I had only about 30 centimeters (11.8 in.) of water inside. I’m really grateful to these Tenrikyo people for coming to help me.” Two doors down the street, two members were shoveling away mud and debris that had flowed into the yard. The 37-year-old resident of the house said: “I wasn’t sure if my house was affected badly enough to make me eligible for help from the city’s volunteer center. But these men happened to come by and noticed the damage, and they were kind enough to offer help. I’m really grateful.”

The next day, the 3rd, it rained in Okazaki, sometimes hard. Local residents looked weary and worried as the members continued their efforts to restore homes. Some members who were in Motonomicho came across an old couple, both in their 80s, who asked them to help clean up their house, which looked as if nothing had been done since the flood. About 20 members spent almost all day working on this house. They sorted out pieces of furniture and removed water-soaked tatami mats. They also lifted floorboards to clear away debris and mud underneath. According to the lady, her husband had refused help from anyone before that day. “He was really adamant about not wanting any help, and he even used strong language towards some volunteers who offered to help,” she said. “He must have been at his emotional and physical breaking point. After these Tenrikyo people came and started helping us, I saw him smile for the first time since the flood. Today, I’m glad he also ate a fair amount at lunch. He must have felt a great weight lifted from his shoulders. He must have felt a real sense of relief.”

Over the seven-day period, the corps was instrumental in restoring about 100 homes.

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