12 feared dead and 13 missing as torrential rain lashes western Japan

More than a dozen feared dead and 13 missing as torrential rain lashes western Japan sparking massive floods and landslides forcing authorities to evacuate 76,000 people

  • The Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has urged local people to be ‘on maximum alert’ as the bad weather continues
  • Abe ordered 10,000 troops on stand-by for immediate deployment to join rescue and recovery operations  
  • Footage showed vehicles swamped at car parks near a flooding river, while several bridges were washed away

More than a dozen people are feared dead and 13 others are missing in western Japan after record heavy rain triggered massive floods and landslides, forcing authorities to issue evacuation orders for more than 76,000 residents.  

The nation’s weather agency downgraded rain warnings by one notch from the highest emergency level in Kumamoto and Kagoshima on Kyushu island, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged local people to be ‘on maximum alert’.

Abe ordered 10,000 troops on stand-by for immediate deployment to join rescue and recovery operations, pledging the central government would ‘do its best to take emergency measures, prioritising people’s lives’.

Two people were found ‘in cardio-respiratory arrest’ and another was missing after landslides in Kumamoto, said Naosaka Miyahara, a disaster management official for the prefecture, using a term often used in Japan before a doctor certifies death.  

Kumamoto Gov. Ikuo Kabashima later told reporters that around a dozen residents at a flooded elderly care home in Kuma village were presumed dead after being found during rescue operations, according to Japanese media including NHK and Kyodo News. Officials said they were still sorting out the numbers and could not confirm the toll. 

Areas are inundated in muddy waters that gushed out from the Kuma River in Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto prefecture, southwestern Japan

A man waits to be rescued on a roof of a house after the area is inundated after torrential rain triggered the flooding of the Kumagawa River


Left: In this aerial image, Hitoyoshi city center is inundated after the torrential rain. Right: Residents are stranded on the rooftop of a house submerged in muddy waters that gushed out from the Kuma River in Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto prefecture, southwestern Japan

A car passes through a flooded road caused by heavy rain in Yatsushiro, Kumamoto prefecture. Public broadcaster NHK said about 100 people had been stranded as roads were cut off by floods and landslides

In Tsunagimachi district, two of three people buried underneath mudslides were pulled out without vital signs, Kumamoto prefectural crisis management official Takafumi Kobori said. Rescuers were still searching for the third person.

In another badly flooded town, Ashikita, six people were unaccounted for and a seventh was seriously injured, Kumamoto officials said.

In the mountainous village of Kuma, residents stranded at their homes were being airlifted by a rescue helicopter. In Hitoyoshi city, rescuers transported some residents in a boat. 

‘At one point in the morning, 13 people were unaccounted for but the figures are changing as we are still struggling to sort out the situation,’ Miyahara told AFP.

Public broadcaster NHK said about 100 people had been stranded as roads were cut off by floods and landslides.

Television footage showed vehicles swamped at car parks near a flooding river, while several bridges were washed away.

‘I can’t evacuate as a road turned into a river. It’s so scary,’ a female resident told NHK.

Aerial footage showed a resident being lifted with a rope from a roof to a military helicopter as an entire town was awash with muddy water.

Rising water caused by heavy rain is seen at Kuma river in Yatsushiro. Japan is currently in its rainy season, which often causes floods and landslides and prompts local authorities to issue evacuation orders

Vehicles pass through a flooded road caused by heavy rain in Yatsushiro, Kumamoto prefecture. Kyodo News said 76,600 residents in Kumamoto and Kagoshima were ordered to evacuate their homes

The river Kuma overflowing in Yatsushiro, Kumamoto prefecture, southwestern Japan. More heavy rain is expected over the coming days

A massive landslide destroyed several houses with rescuers searching for missing people through half-buried windows. Pictured: rising water caused by a heavy rain is seen along Kuma river in Yatsushiro

A massive landslide destroyed several houses with rescuers searching for missing people through half-buried windows.

‘We have issued evacuation orders after record heavy rain,’ said Toshiaki Mizukami, another official for Kumamoto prefecture.

‘We strongly urge people to take action to protect their lives as it’s still raining quite heavily,’ he told AFP.

Kyodo News said 76,600 residents in Kumamoto and Kagoshima were ordered to evacuate their homes.

Some train services have been suspended in the region, while more than 8,000 households lost power.

‘I smelled mud, and the whole area was vibrating with river water. I’ve never experienced anything like this,’ a man in a shelter in Yatsushiro city, in western Kumamoto, told NHK TV. He said he fled early fearing a disaster. 

Japan is currently in its rainy season, which often causes floods and landslides and prompts local authorities to issue evacuation orders.

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