58 People Dead, 48 Missing, 3.5 Million Evacuated as Heavy Rains Flood Japan

Troops from the Japanese Self-Defense Forces evacuated residents in Okayama Prefecture on Saturday. The deluge left dozens dead and dozens more missing, the public broadcaster NHK said.
Koki Sengoku/Kyodo News, via Associated Press

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 the public broadcaster NHK. More than one 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 on 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 department and defense forces are taking part in the search-and-rescue 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.

Footage posted to social media, purportedly taken in the town of Takehara in Hiroshima prefecture, shows mud and debris from an apparent landslide strewn across a roadway. Other clips show portions of roads swept into raging rivers.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Makiko Inoue and Hisako Ueno