Flooding leaves dozens dead, missing in Japan
Search-and-rescue operations underway after record rainfall
TOKYO — Record torrential rains across western and central Japan unleashed flooding and landslides in several residential areas, killing dozens and triggering weather warnings in four districts of the country.
By Saturday evening, at least 51 people were dead and 48 were missing, according to public broadcaster NHK. More than 1 million people in 18 districts had been ordered to evacuate their homes and 3.5 million had been urged to leave.
The Japan Meteorological Agency reported Saturday that rainfall in many of the affected areas had reached record levels — with some areas reporting rain two or three times as high as the monthly average for all of July over just five days.
“This is a record high rainfall which we never experienced,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a Saturday morning ministers’ meeting, urging his Cabinet to take “every measure to prevent the disaster from worsening by taking advance actions.”
Some 48,000 emergency responders from the police, fire departments and defense forces are taking part in the search-andrescue operations, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
A man died after falling off a bridge into a river in the southwestern city of Hiroshima, and another died after being swept into a canal, NHK reported. An elderly woman was found dead in her house after a mudslide swept through it.
While the rainfall had lessened in many areas by Saturday night, the national weather service warned that flooding could continue in some areas including Gifu, Hiroshima, and Shimane. Parts of southern, western and central Japan were still bracing for more.
In Kurashiki City in Okayama prefecture, an area hit especially hard by flooding, a nursing home was inundated, leaving some of the residents stranded, the public broadcaster reported.
A riverbank collapsed in the city, flooding much of the area and prompting hundreds to take shelter on their rooftops where they awaited rescue by boat and helicopter.
The national public broadcaster warned Saturday night that those under evacuation orders should immediately move to municipal shelters, but for those unable to leave, they advised moving to a higher level of the home.
Residents are rescued by boat Saturday in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture, western Japan. Right, residents wait to be rescued on top of a house submerged by floodwaters. Torrents of rainfall and flooding battered a widespread area in southwestern Japan on Saturday, killing at least 51. Kyodo News photos / Associated Press