Japanese emergency services and troops yesterday scrambled to reach people cut off by catastrophic flooding and landslides that have killed dozens and caused widespread damage, with more torrential rain forecast.
In the scenic tourist area of Gifu in central Japan, officials said that landslides and floodwater had left nearly 1,000 households stranded — or about 2,300 people.
However, in the hardest-hit region of Kumamoto, attention was turning to cleanup operations after some of the heaviest rain in years.
“The number of people stranded is zero. We can now reach all of the areas that had been isolated,” a Kumamoto official said.
Witnesses saw part of a road collapsed into a river and scenes of devastation in flood-affected houses.
In one home, an elderly man was struggling to clear up the debris and furniture littering the mud-caked floor, his traditional straw tatami mats in one room ruined.
The rain front started in the southwest early on Saturday and has since cut a swathe of destruction across Japan, dumping record amounts of rain and causing swollen rivers to burst their banks.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said that heavy rain will likely continue at least until July 12, calling for “extreme vigilance” for possible landslides and flooding in low-lying areas.
The agency issued its second-highest evacuation order to about 350,000 people.
However, such orders are not compulsory and most residents are choosing not to go to shelters, possibly due to fears over COVID-19.
The death toll has climbed gradually as more victims are discovered in isolated areas.
Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said that 58 people were confirmed dead.
Authorities were investigating whether four other deaths were linked to the floods, he said, adding that 17 people were unaccounted for.
After five days blocked by floodwater and landslides, troops finally managed to rescue about 40 residents from Ashikita in Kumamoto.
Kinuyo Nakamura, 68, burst into tears of relief as she finally made it to an evacuation center.
“Gosh, it was scary. My house, it’s such a mess. I cannot live there anymore,” she said as she came across someone she knew at the shelter.
“We have experienced flooding disasters in the past many times, but this one doesn’t compare,” she told public broadcaster NHK.
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