Over 60 killed in severe flooding in Japan, with threat of 'unprecedented level' of rain still to come
Around 58 people are believed to be dead after floods swept through Kumamura, Japan, in early July, causing extensive damage to the community.
The death toll continued to rise Friday on the island of Kyushu in southwestern Japan as tens of thousands of workers continued rescue and recovery efforts after flooding downpours inundated the region.
On Wednesday afternoon, local time, The New York Times reported that at least 58 people had been confirmed dead across the country, many of whom perished on Kyushu Island. Videos and photos of the flood-ravaged region showed widespread devastation.
As of Friday, 60 people have been confirmed dead in Kumamoto Prefecture, 2 in Fukuoka Prefecture and 1 in Oita Prefecture, according to a local report.
Kyushu Island is Japan's third-largest and home to more than 12 million people. Approximately three million of those residents were advised to evacuate.
Space is limited in evacuation centers due to COVID-19 social distancing regulations. While some residents were forced to seek shelter in alternate locations, others opted to register with a shelter but remained in their vehicles awaiting rescue, according to The Japan Times.
River levels have been rising across the Kumamoto region, and numerous reporting stations have measured rivers at "flood risk levels." Officials are urging residents to remain vigilant as the risk for flooding remains high, according to NHK. The Japan Meteorological Agency issued landslide warnings due to the potential for "an unprecedented level" of rain that could still fall across the islands of Kyushu, Shikoku and Honshu, AFP reported.
The Kuma River, which flows through the Kumamoto Prefecture and Kuma Village, rose well above its banks on Saturday, washing away at least one bridge and cutting off citizens from rescue crews and causing widespread power outages.
Survivors told harrowing accounts of nearly being swept away in the raging floodwaters and witnessing those who were overcome by the deluge. Keisuke Masuda of Hitoyoshi city said he watched in terror as a neighbor was pulled away by rushing floodwaters.
"He was swept away right before my eyes," Masuda said, according to AFP. The 67-year-old said the neighbor was hanging on to a bush, but eventually lost his grip as the floodwaters proved too powerful. The neighbor, Masuda said, waved goodbye to his wife as the water pulled him away. "I was overcome with a sense of helplessness," Masuda recalled.
The river also flooded the Senja Nursing Home located near its edge, killing a total of 14 residents who were stranded on the lowest level.
The Chikugo River in Fukuoka Prefecture has also flooded a large residential area.
The Mayor of Kumamoto urged residents on twitter Tuesday to heed evacuation orders and to be prepared with the risk of flooding likely to continue.
An image from a video published by NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) shows a landslide on
Wednesday, July 8, 2020 that occurred in a residential area of Hita City, Oita Prefecture, and covered several houses with mud and trees.
A front is forecast to remain over Japan through at least the start of the weekend. As several storms move along a front, more heavy rain will soak the flood-stricken country.
With rainfall totals of up to 300 mm (12 inches) expected in parts of southwestern Japan, the risk for additional flooding, mudslides and evacuation orders will be likely through Saturday.
The stagnant weather pattern that has led to the devastation in western Japan has been in place since the end of June. The largely stationary front that brings rounds of heavy rain to parts of eastern China during the wet season has moved to the north in recent weeks.
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