Outrage after homeless men denied refuge from Typhoon Hagibis

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promises to take action after two men were denied entry to a Tokyo storm shelter.

    Typhoon Hagibis has left thousands of homes damaged, forcing people to seek refuge in shelters [Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]
    Typhoon Hagibis has left thousands of homes damaged, forcing people to seek refuge in shelters [Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]

    A Japanese evacuation centre has come under intense criticism after it turned away two homeless men seeking shelter from a deadly typhoon.

    Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, promised on Tuesday to take action after reports emerged of the two men being denied entry to the shelter in Taito ward in the capital, Tokyo. 

    The typhoon, named Hagibis, swept across central and eastern Japan on Saturday, killing at least 74 people and leaving thousands of homes without power or water. The death toll is expected to rise as search-and-rescue efforts continue.

    A 64-year-old homeless man told Japan's Asahi Shimbun that he arrived at the Taito evacuation centre on Saturday morning. 

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    "The wind was strong and it was raining and I wanted them to let me in," he said. Officials asked him to write down his name and address. 

    When he said he had an address in the northern island of Hokkaido, he was refused entry because he was not a resident of the ward.

    He then spent the night under a plastic umbrella, partially shielded beneath the eaves of a building, the newspaper reported, adding that another homeless man was also turned away when he visited the centre in the afternoon.

    An official from Taito ward said staff at the school-turned-evacuation centre refused to let the two men in because they did not have addresses in the area, telling them the shelter was only for ward residents.

    Taito ward apologised for the incident and said it would review its procedures to help people without addresses. 

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    Social media lit up with criticism over the incident, with many people denouncing its actions as a violation of human rights.

    "Is this a country that's going to host the Olympics in Tokyo?" one man with the handle @G_takatoshi asked on Twitter. "People from abroad would see this and think this is a terrible country."

    Asked about the incident by opposition legislators, Abe told parliament that the homeless men should have been given refuge.

    "Shelters are supposed to be set up for the purpose of protecting lives of affected people. It is desirable to accept all affected people in shelters," he said, adding that he would take measures to prevent similar cases. 

    Hagibis unleashed fierce winds and unprecedented rain that triggered landslides and caused dozens of rivers to burst their banks. 

    One homeless man was found dead on Tuesday near a flooded river in another area of the capital, according to local media. Police suspect he lived near the river and drowned in the floods.

    According to the government, some 1,100 people sleep rough in Tokyo, accounting for a quarter of Japan's homeless. 

    "But the actual figure may be larger as new types of homeless people, who stay at internet cafes or other facilities are emerging," a government official told AFP news agency.

    SOURCE: News agencies