Japan floods: death toll grows as rain triggers fresh landslides
Torrential rain triggered a mudslide and more floods across Japan on Sunday, leaving three people presumed dead and forcing the evacuation of dozens of residents.
A mudslide early Sunday hit a house in Okaya City in the central Japanese prefecture of Nagano, burying eight residents. Three of the people were presumed dead when rescue workers found them, and two others were injured, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency. The other three people were safely rescued.
On Friday, a mudslide in Nagasaki killed one person, injured another and left two others missing, while a separate mudslide in Hiroshima left one person seriously injured. Two women in their 70s were also confirmed dead after they were found in a drainage canal.
By Sunday, dozens of people in flooded areas in the southern Kyushu region as well as Hiroshima had been rescued, the disaster management agency said.
Heavy rain has been dumped across south-western Japan since last week, with more than a metre falling in the northern part of Kyushu. The Japan Meteorological Agency said more rain was expected in the coming days as a front is stuck above the Japanese archipelago.
“We have not started to survey human or property damage on a full scale,” said Hironori Fujiki, a city official in Kyushu’s Nagasaki prefecture.
“We have yet to see an entire picture of the disaster,” he told AFP.
On Sunday, residents returned to check on their mud-covered homes in parts of the south-west, where nearly two million people were advised to urgently seek shelter on Saturday as rivers overflowed.
“So many logs tumbled down and crashed into this area” from nearby mountains, an elderly resident of Kanzaki in Saga prefecture told public broadcaster NHK.
“It was so, so scary,” she said. “You absolutely have to leave when it rains.”
Nearly 200 municipalities at high risk of floods or mudslides have issued evacuation instructions, affecting more than 4 million residents, though there is no penalty for those who ignore the orders.
More than 500 homes around the country have been damaged by floods and mudslides, the disaster management agency said.
Scientists say climate change is intensifying the risk of heavy rain in Japan and elsewhere, because a warmer atmosphere holds more water.
Strong rain last month caused a devastating landslide in the central resort town of Atami that killed 23 people, with four still missing.
And in 2018, floods and landslides killed more than 200 people in western Japan during the country’s annual rainy season.
Ryuta Kurora, director of forecasts at Japan’s weather agency, warned that the record rainfall will have loosened the soil in some areas.
“We ask residents to continue to exercise serious caution for landslides,” he said in a televised press briefing.