Emperor, empress meet disaster survivors online

NHK -- Jan 28
Japan's Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako have made an online visit to Kumamoto Prefecture, which last year was hit by torrential rains that left scores of people dead or missing.

The visit was the imperial couple's first to a disaster-stricken area via video link amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The downpours last July left 65 people dead and two missing in the prefecture. Many people are still unable to go back home.

The emperor and empress spoke with Kumamoto Governor Kabashima Ikuo on Wednesday from their home at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo.

After being briefed on the overall situation, they took an online tour of the four hardest-hit municipalities and offered words of encouragement to residents. The four are Hitoyoshi City, Yatsushiro City, Kuma Village and Ashikita Town.

The disaster killed 20 people in Hitoyoshi City. The emperor spoke to a man whose home there was destroyed. He told the man he'd had a hard time, and asked how he's doing now. The man said he has recovered physically, but that his destroyed home remains untouched.

The couple asked about the man's wife, who is ill and hospitalized. The empress wished them well.

Later, the emperor told a man supporting volunteer activities in Yatsushiro City, "You must have had many tough experiences."

The man said that due to the coronavirus pandemic, only volunteers in the prefecture were accepted, and that it was also necessary to take steps to prevent heatstroke.

The empress said the pandemic is making things harder, and asked him to take good care of himself.


天皇皇后両陛下が豪雨災害の被災者をオンラインで見舞われました。  去年7月に九州を襲った豪雨では熊本県で65人が亡くなり、4500棟以上が全半壊しました。  両陛下は今月27日、被害のあった地域とオンラインで結び、被災者を見舞われました。  熊本県八代市の自宅が全壊して自衛隊のヘリコプターで救助された女性が当時の状況を話すと、両陛下は「大変、怖い思いをされたのではないですか」「救助されて本当によかったですね」などと気遣われました。 - ANNnewsCH