New flood-prevention measures for high-rises may be introduced

Flooding caused by Typhoon Hagibis in October has pushed two government ministries into action to introduce much-needed flood prevention measures for high-rise buildings.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) are working towards implementing new rules by the end of this year. 

Currently, the Building Standards Act has rules and guidelines for earthquake and fire prevention, but no measures for flooding. Electrical equipment is often located in a building’s basement, making it easily prone to flood damage.

Although the Tama River did not breach its levees, backflow flooding did occur around the Musashikosugi neighborhood in Kawasaki City during Typhoon Hagibis. 

Floodwaters quickly poured into the basement of a 47-story high-rise apartment tower near Musashikosugi Station, damaging the electrical systems and causing a power outage to residents. With no electricity, water could not be pumped up to the apartments above, while elevators were out of order. There were also sewerage overflow problems, with residents unable to flush their toilets. Electricity and water were finally fully restored 17 days later.

The flooding should not have come as a surprise to locals as the area around the station is a recognized flood hazard zone with potential for flooding with a depth of up to 3 meters. However, residents are now more aware of the susceptibility of high-rise buildings to flood-related power outages and plumbing issues. 

Source: The Asahi Shimbun, November 25, 2019.

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