Officials in Japan have advised millions of people to leave their homes amid severe flooding that has killed nearly 60 people so far.

“Unprecedented” rain that began over the weekend has caused rivers to burst their banks, mudslides and the destruction of homes and roads in what has been described as Japan’s worst natural disaster since Typhoon Hagibis killed 90 people in October last year.

Japan’s meteorological agency issued the highest level of alert for rain in more than 20 municipalities on Wednesday, in the central regions of Gifu and Nagano, although this was later downgraded.

Download the new Independent Premium app

Sharing the full story, not just the headlines

More than 3 million people have been advised to evacuate across the country – 219,000 of those in Gifu prefecture alone, which is about 250 miles west of Tokyo.

In Kyushu, southwest Japan – where the rain first hit over the weekend – the death toll stands at 56, according to the Kyodo News agency. On Wednesday morning, parts of Nagano and Gifu were flooded following torrential rain.

Meanwhile, footage on NHK TV network showed the Hida River overflowing, destroying a national highway. In another central Japanese city of Gero, river water rose to just below the bridge above it.

In the mountainous town of Takayama, several houses were hit by a mudslide, with uprooted trees and other debris scattered around. It was not immediately known what happened to their residents.

Though the rains were causing fresh flooding threats in central Japan, flooding was still affecting the southern region. And search and rescue operations continued in Kumamoto, where 14 people are still missing.

Tens of thousands of military personnel, police officers and other rescue workers were mobilised from around the country to help, but rescue operations have been hampered by the rains, flooding, mudslides and disrupted communications.

Torrential rain is expected to remain over a wide front “stretching from western to eastern Japan” until Thursday, chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Tuesday.

Japan is at high risk of heavy rain in early summer when wet and warm air from the East China Sea flows into a seasonal rain front above the country.

In July 2018, more than 200 people, about half of them in Hiroshima, died from heavy rain and flooding in southwestern Japan.

Additional reporting by agencies

Back to: Blog Home Asia News