Fourteen people were yesterday feared dead at a nursing home in western Japan as record rainfall triggered massive floods and landslides, forcing authorities to issue evacuation advisories for more than 200,000 residents.
The victims were found in “cardio-respiratory arrest” at the facility for elderly people, which was flooded after a nearby river broke its banks, Kumamoto Prefecture Governor Ikuo Kabashima told reporters.
Authorities in Japan often use that term before a doctor officially certifies death.
“The Self-Defense Forces have launched rescue operations,” Kabashima said, adding that three others at the home were suffering from hypothermia.
About 60 to 70 people were in the home yesterday morning as water rushed in and flooded the building up to the second floor, Japan Broadcasting Corp (NHK) said.
Local officials separately said that another person was also found in cardio-respiratory arrest in landslides in Kumamoto.
They had previously said two were feared dead.
Elsewhere in Kumamoto, one person was seriously injured and nine were missing, while about 100 people were stranded as roads were cut off by floods and landslides, NHK reported.
The Japan Meteorological Agency downgraded rain warnings by one notch from the highest emergency level in Kumamoto and nearby Kagoshima, but Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged local residents to be “on maximum alert.”
Abe ordered 10,000 troops on standby for immediate deployment to join rescue and recovery operations, pledging that the central Japanese government would “do its best to take emergency measures, prioritizing people’s lives.”
Television footage showed vehicles swamped at parking lots 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.
Haruka Yamada, a 32-year-old local resident, told Kyodo News: “I saw large trees and parts of houses being washed away and heard them crashing into something. The air is filled with the smell of leaking gas and sewage.”
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.
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,” Kumamoto Prefecture official Toshiaki Mizukami told reporters. “We strongly urge people to take action to protect their lives, as it’s still raining quite heavily.”
More than 203,000 residents in Kumamoto and Kagoshima were advised to evacuate their homes, Kyodo said.
Some train services have been suspended in the region, while more than 8,000 households lost power.
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