Marines, sailors help clean waterlogged homes after flooding in Japan

Two Marines assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni unload a refrigerator that was destroyed by recent flooding in the Shuto area of Iwakuni, Japan, on July 12, 2018.


By JAMES BOLINGER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 12, 2018

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — U.S. servicemembers are working alongside locals to help people after devastating floods in western Japan.

More than 50 sailors and Marines joined a volunteer effort organized by Iwakuni’s Single Marine Program Thursday, heading for flood-hit neighborhoods. Torrential waters and landslides have killed at least 200 in recent days.

The troops split into two groups who worked in three-hour shifts alongside local volunteers.

One group spent the morning cleaning flood-damaged homes near the Shimato River in Iwakuni City’s Shuto neighborhood.

One resident, who identified himself only as Manabe, said he awoke early on July 7 to find the lower story of his house underwater.

“I’ve never faced this kind of disaster in my lifetime,” he said as he watched servicemembers carry his belongings to a growing pile of water-logged items from neighborhood homes. “I went downstairs and everything we owned was floating, and now has to be thrown out.”

The man said he’s emotionally damaged by the flood.

“I never expected anything like this … but I know that this will not be the last hardship I will face. I have to stay positive,” he said.

The volunteers pulled up, scrubbed and dried floorboards from some homes. The hope is that they can be reused as residents rebuild their lives.

The effort shows Marines care about their neighbors, said Lance Cpl. Angela Cordone, a military police officer who also volunteers at local schools and orphanages.

Iwakuni local government officials reported two deaths and one minor injury from the flooding, which caused mudslides and road closures in the area. Six homes in Iwakuni were destroyed and hundreds damaged by water, the officials said.

“We have no estimated timeline of how long the recovery efforts will take,” an official said.

The Iwakuni volunteers plan to continue their work through Sunday.

Stripes correspondent Hana Kusumoto contributed to this article.

Twitter: @bolingerj2004

Lance Cpl. Gavin Pitzer, a Marine police officer at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, hands saturated floorboards to fellow Marines during clean-up and relief operations in the Shuto area of Iwakuni, Japan, on July 12, 2018.

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