Flooding, mudslides wreak havoc after days of heavy rain

Leroy Wright
July 7, 2018

The death toll from record downpours in Japan jumped to at least 20, with more than 1.9 million people ordered to evacuate on Saturday, as heavy rain continued to strike large areas in the west of the country.

The agency warned that Japan's Kinki region, which includes Kyoto, Hyogo and Osaka prefectures, could be particularly hard-hit by downpours, escalating the risk of floods, landslides, lightning and tornadoes.

In Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, a woman in her 30s and her two children were feared dead after a mudslide hit their home.

Rescue workers dug into the dirt as landslides crushed houses in the same region, while several people evacuated to their rooftops as floods swamped entire residential areas in part of the Okayama region.

The special warnings, issued when a once-in-decades disaster looks imminent, were maintained for Kyoto, Hyogo and Okayama prefectures, all in the western region, and newly issued in Gifu Prefecture, central Japan, early Saturday afternoon.

"The torrential rain will continue until the day after tomorrow", he said.

In Seiyo, Ehime Prefecture, five were confirmed dead due to the torrential rain, including people swept away in a auto.

In Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, city officials said it was hard to determine how many residents were actually missing.

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At least 10 people are believed to have been buried alive by mudslides in Hiroshima Prefecture, according to Kyodo News.

Evacuation orders or advisories were issued to over 3 million households as flooding and landslides intensified in Hiroshima and Okayama prefectures in particular.

Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said another 21,000 troops were on stand-by, adding: "I instructed them to carry out rescue operations by using every possible means of land-sea-and-air forces".

Already-saturated areas faced more rain on Sunday, it said.

The rain had people living in the city of Kyoto recalling previous periods of heavy rain and flooding - in 2004 and 2013 - that caused fatalities and damage, but they were hopeful the situation would not be repeated.

The government set up a liaison unit at the crisis management center of the prime minister's office to gather information, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference.

The heavy rains caused a suspension of bullet train services between Shin-Osaka and Kokura in Fukuoka Prefecture on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line from the first runs on July 7.

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