Flooding, power outages force some Yokota families to evacuate
By AARON KIDD AND JAMES KIMBER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 23, 2016
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – More than 300 families living at a western Tokyo air base were displaced Tuesday after a typhoon caused flooding that knocked out power and water service to their homes.
Buildings 4300, 4301, 4302, 4303 and 4305 on Yokota Air Base’s east side lost electricity after Mindulle – the first typhoon to roar ashore in the metropolitan area in 16 years – made landfall Monday afternoon south of Tokyo. The storm triggered floods, disrupted travel and kept some U.S. military bases, including Yokota, on lockdown before being downgraded to a tropical depression Tuesday morning.
Yokota received just under 10 inches of rain – 4 more inches than expected – in about eight hours, an official said.
“We don’t have an exact timeframe on when power will be restored,” Capt. Mark Lazane, 374th Airlift Wing public affairs officer, said in an email to Stars and Stripes.
“It depends on the amount of damage done to the electrical system, and that won’t be known until the systems are dried out.”
Safety was the main reason for the evacuation, said Col. Neil Richardson, the 374th Airlift Wing vice commander.
“No power and no water in any of the facilities also means we have no fire-detection capability, so we determined it was unsafe to keep them in there,” he said.
The installation commander-directed evacuation asked the affected residents to report to a processing line at Yokota’s Enlisted Club on Tuesday afternoon to receive keys to their temporary quarters.
“Expect to have at least a cot and hot water,” said a statement posted to Yokota’s Facebook page. “Some rooms may or may not have cooking or cold storage equipment.”
Evacuees were asked to bring 72 hours’ worth of linens, towels, toiletries and comfort items. They were also asked to bring entertainment, such as laptops and cellphones.
“The lodging has power, but does not have internet,” the statement said.
“Most of them will go into contingency lodging,” Richardson said. “We have some people, based on medical necessity or need, that will move into the Kanto Lodge as well, but we have the capability here with all of the other towers that still have power on the south side of the base.”
Some residents were also given the option of staying in an off-base hotel, reimbursable up to $140 per night.
The evacuation is for comfort and hygiene, an official said during a briefing to affected residents. The towers will remain open 24 hours a day, and families will be allowed to come and go as needed.
Yokota’s 374th Civil Engineer Squadron is working around the clock to fix the problem, Richardson said.
“They got all the water out of the basements, the drive-in areas, out of the docks, and now they’re working on the power piece,” he said. “And that’s going to come around slowly. The objective is to get everybody back into a home as quickly as possible.”
For property loss claims, Air Force personnel must contact Yokota’s legal office, the official said. Other servicemembers can make claims through their service’s legal office. NAF employees must go through their personal insurance company.
The American Red Cross distributes free bottled water and nonperishable food to families, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016, at Yokota Air Base, Japan. More than 300 families stationed at the base were ordered to temporarily relocate after floodwaters cut electricity and rendered fire-detection systems inoperable in several buildings.
JAMES KIMBER/STARS AND STRIPES