Death toll in south­ern Ja­pan floods rises to 18

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

TOKYO — The death toll from heavy rains and flood­ing in Ja­pan’s south has risen to 18, of­fi­cials said on Sun­day, as res­cue teams con­tin­ued their search for sur­vivors.

Swaths of Kyushu — the south­ern­most of Ja­pan’s four main is­lands — have been left dev­as­tated af­ter over­flow­ing rivers and tor­ren­tial down­pours swept away roads, houses and schools this week.

Thou­sands of peo­ple have been evac­u­ated to makeshift shel­ters in school gyms and pub­lic build­ings, but many re­main stranded, with emer­gency ser­vices bat­tling through thick mud and rain to try to reach them.

More than 500 peo­ple were still cut off by Sun­day, pub­lic broad­caster NHK re­ported, with col­lapsed bridges and wa­ter­logged ground on steep hill­sides ham­per­ing res­cue ef­forts.

The gov­ern­ment was do­ing its “ut­most” to re­cover those miss­ing or stranded, Chief Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Yoshi­hide Suga said in a rare week­end news con­fer­ence.

Of­fi­cials of Fukuoka and Oita pre­fec­tures said a to­tal 18 peo­ple had been con­firmed dead while 27 were miss­ing or could not be reached.

Five peo­ple were in crit­i­cal con­di­tion, Suga said, with the gov­ern­ment still try­ing to as­cer­tain if their in­juries were a re­sult of the se­vere weather.

Tele­vi­sion footage showed res­cue heli­copters held up at a makeshift he­li­port — un­able to fly be­cause of the down­pours, while peo­ple prayed for the safety of their fam­ily mem­bers.

More than 50 cen­time­tres of rain del­uged parts of Kyushu in 12 hours on Wed­nes­day, prompt­ing the Ja­pan Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Agency to warn of pos­si­ble sig­nif­i­cant dam­age.

Rains have con­tin­ued in­ter­mit­tently since, with up to 22 cen­time­ters recorded in Fukuoka in the past 72-hour pe­riod.

Ja­pan’s royal fam­ily post­poned the for­mal an­nounce­ment of Princess Mako’s en­gage­ment to a col­lege class­mate on Satur­day out of con­sid­er­a­tion for the suf­fer­ing of peo­ple in the af­fected ar­eas, palace of­fi­cials said. A new date has yet to be de­cided.

Ja­pan’s weather agency on Sun­day warned of con­tin­ued heavy rains and mud­slides in north­ern Kyushu.

AP

Fire­fight­ers watch as a wild­fire burns near Oroville, Cal­i­for­nia, on Satur­day.

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