The Japan Times reports that, as of this morning, 35 people are dead and 17 are missing as a result of Typhoon Hagibis.
That’s pretty bad.
But it’s also, in another way, pretty good.
This was a ferocious storm, by some reports the strongest to hit Japan since Typhoon Ida in 1958 (also known as the Kanogawa Typhoon) which killed 1,269 people and injured 1,138 more.
Yesterday I set out to drive around the Tome area, and maybe heading for Ishinomaki to find a bar to watch the Sunday rugby. Tome is a renowned rice growing district, full of fat flat fields intersected by irrigation ditches. There was a lot of flooded fields, the rivers were very high, and a spread of debris across the roads. But nothing too dramatic.
The closer I got to the coast, however, the more the drama. Slips big and small, flooding across roads, swift big rivers approaching the tops of the levees.
My maps app hadn’t caught up with all of that, so I ended up driving in circles on secondary roads. Not a worry for me personally as I really had nowhere to be by any much time, but this is an area that had been devastated by the Tohoku Earthquake and tsunami in 2011, so there was just the sense of heightened awareness of danger. Old fellas in a big-vis vest waving big torches. Long traffic queues heading one way, then being turned around.
The relatively low death toll from Hagibis can be put down to the preparation. For more than a week, advisories had been pouring forth. In the two days before Saturday, the full preparations swung in, with planes and trains being progressively discontinued in the likely affected areas. And on Saturday itself, shops and businesses closed. Saturation coverage on tv, alerts to your cellphone, sirens throughout the night.
Which makes the decision of the RWC Organising Committee to cancel two matches on the Saturday (and eventually one on the Sunday) completely unremarkable. In the midst of much of a country going into lockdown, going ahead would have been a bizarre decision, and one which would have put a lot of lives at risk. Just think about all of the people trying to get to or from a stadium, stuck in the open when the typhoon hit. Not just bizarre: culpable.
There will be questions to come about the timing of this Rugby World Cup, not only covering the typhoon season, but also remember how hot and humid the early games were. (Hot and humid and typhoons tend to go together, of course.) Kicking off one month later might have avoided much of this. So yes, there will be questions about how much World Rugby thought about these things four or five years ago when they were making their detailed plans, but on the ground and on the day, they made the right calls.
Which cannot be said about Scottish rugby officials, who lost their minds, souls and reputation with some mind-bending stupidity. Their team needed to win, and win well, against Japan in their final match on Sunday evening if they were to progress. The Scottish officials saw all sorts of conspiracies in the glowering skies, had a public tanty and threatened to sue for lots of dosh if the game was cancelled.
That would have been a fantastic headline, yeah? “35 dead but Scots rugby gets millions of quid, so it’s all okay now”.
Priorities, lads. Priorities.