As they clambered onto the roof of their sinking home, this couple must have been terrified for their own lives. But that didn’t stop them from attempting to save their dogs. Indeed, as they waited for their slim chance at rescue, they held their pooches close. Meanwhile, raging water battered constantly at their house. This was Japan in 2015.
It was in September of that year, in fact, that the tropical storm Etau thrashed the east coast of Japan. And the unprecedented rainfall wreaked havoc on the lives and homes of the country’s residents. In particular, the storm resulted in massive flooding as it journeyed north.
The freak weather raged through many cities, including Kanuma, Sendai and Toba, forcing millions to evacuate their homes. And in the city of Nikkō an overwhelming 26.3 inches of rain fell, of which 21.7 inches came in just 24 hours.
Eventually, the storm reached the city of Jōsō, where it caused the banks of the Kinugawa River to burst. And few saw that event coming, as the last time the river had suffered such a fate was in 1949. In fact, the unexpected nature of the disaster meant that the evacuation notice in Jōsō was not given until after the banks had succumbed to the rain.
In total, then, the storm Etau claimed the lives of eight people and injured many others. In addition, the destructive floods caused eastern Japan’s agriculture, forest and fishing industries to suffer property damages of up to $97.8 million.
The surging waters that enveloped Jōsō, meanwhile, carried away entire homes while residents fled for their lives. And as the water grew deeper, many of the city’s 65,000 inhabitants had nowhere to go but up. As a result, they climbed to the roofs of their houses for safety.
It’s difficult to imagine yourself in such a situation. But if your house was burning down, or being swept away by floodwater, what would you save? For some, it might be a treasured, sentimental keepsake. But for those with pets, the choice is probably easy.
Indeed, for one couple in Jōsō city, their first thought was their Shiba Inu dogs. After all, pets are part of the family – and this couple couldn’t let theirs drown. Like most dog owners, there was likely no way they would have forgiven themselves if they did.
And so, as the water surged all around, the couple rushed to the roof of their home. Once there, they awaited rescue like everyone else. Meanwhile, the current continued to tear apart their house and belongings. But, luckily, they didn’t go to the roof alone.
In fact, the couple successfully managed to get both of their canine companions up onto the roof with them, leaving behind everything else they owned. Video footage later emerged showing them sitting on top of their home, clinging to their dogs for dear life.
As anyone with a pet pooch will agree, it’s not surprising that the couple decided they couldn’t leave their dogs behind. After all, they aren’t known as “man’s best friend” for nothing. In fact, studies have shown that, in some cases, people would choose to save a dog rather than a human they didn’t know.
Thankfully, and just when they needed it most, a rescue helicopter finally arrived on the scene. First, the team winched down and retrieved the woman and her dog. Then they went back down for her husband and the couple’s second pet.
Amazingly, then, the couple and their dogs had all made it to safety, even if the disastrous floods had taken their home and all their possessions. But they could at least rest safe in the knowledge that they had their lives. And, of course, their dogs.
Of course, the couple and countless others across eastern Japan had the Self-Defence Force, a non-combat military unit, to thank for their rescue. Indeed, the force received high praise for its rescue efforts during the catastrophe. Over 6,000 recruits manned 51 helicopters for the rescue operation.
Tragically, though, not everyone who made it to their rooftops was successfully saved. In particular, one rescue attempt that was broadcast live on Japanese TV seemingly ended in disaster. Two stranded people had climbed onto their garage, which collapsed just as a rescue team approached. At that point, the broadcast hurriedly cut out.
And in the aftermath of the floods, thousands of Japanese residents took shelter in schools and gymnasiums. Meanwhile, the Japanese Red Cross donated $25,000 to the rescue operation. The charity also set up a campaign for the public to donate.
Then on September 12, 2015, just days after the worst of the floods had hit, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe visited Jōsō. At the time, authorities were working tirelessly to still try to save trapped residents and repair the riverbank. 2,000 police officers, firefighters and troops had been sent to aid people in need.
And as a result of the efforts, one Jōsō man was eventually rescued after spending days inside his home. He told reporters of his ordeal, “I felt more dead than alive. I lived by drinking tea as there was no food. I’m so glad that they came to rescue me.” Furthermore, another resident expressed his dismay at coming home to find his house flooded. “I have never seen anything like this before. I wonder when we can come back and live like it was,” he told AFP.
Of course, this wasn’t the first disaster to have struck Japan. In 2011, for example, a tsunami hit the east coast after a magnitude 9 earthquake struck the country. And cases like Etau aren’t out of the ordinary, either, with around 20 to 30 tropical storms thrashing through Japan each year. But the rainfall in Jōsō was unlike anything seen in years.
Though despite all the horror of the floods and the terrible consequences that followed, one thing draws comfort. That’s knowing that some people will always look out for their families – whether they’re human or animal. Indeed, the couple that clung to their dogs on the roof that disastrous day are no doubt counting their blessings. Thankfully, they managed to save their pets no matter what else they lost along the way.