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wasn't until near minutes before a levee broke that an evacuation order was issued here in the small Japanese town of Mabi. The area was one of the hardest hit in the recent flooding, with at least 50 people killed and over a quarter of the town engulfed in water reaching as high as 16 feet in some neighborhoods.
But the risk of flooding here wasn't news to residents, they simply weren't prepared.>>
> I heard about it back in elementary school that this town would be in danger if the river flooded, it's always been a problem here.>> So far over 200 people have died in Western Japan overall.
As for the town of Mabi, Reuters' Mari Saito reports there were several factors that magnified its death toll.>> What we've learned from reporting with residents here of their interviews with local politicians and by looking at public documents that were published before the recent flood is that flood control plans to work on the river, the nearby river had been delayed for decades in this area despite heavy lobbying by local politicians and residents.
>> A flood control project finally won approval in 2010 and construction was set to start this autumn. Local officials had been asking Japan's Land Ministry for it since 2005 but it wasn't deemed high enough priority. That's because the ministry has to make their decision after seeing all requests sent in from around the country.
And the ministry says, the process was delayed by competition for a dwindling budget. Hazard maps created by the city were accurate. Large swatches of Mabi marked as risky almost perfectly matches the areas overrun by flood waters. But the problem lies in the fact that the city assumed it would be prolonged rain over a wide area, rather than the intense downpour that happened this month.
And some residents say they simply ignored the hazard maps altogether, after all, rainfall is relatively rare in Okayama Prefecture, known as the land of sunshine.