Japan flooding death toll nears 60 as ‘unprecedented’ rain batters main island

Japans’s Meteorological Agency initially issued a heavy rain emergency warning for areas before downgrading to local warning, but an official told Agence France-Presse that “an unprecedented level” of rain was impacting central Japan.

“Especially in areas designated as high risk for landslides and flooding, the possibility is extremely high that some kind of disaster is already happening,” he told the news agency.

JAPAN FLOODING DEATH TOLL RISES TO 53, A DOZEN MISSING AS TORRENTIAL RAINS SPREAD THROUGH REGION

Parts of Nagano and Gifu, including areas known for scenic mountain trails and hot springs, were flooded on Wednesday by massive downpours.

This aerial photo shows the flooded area brought on by the swelled up Chikugo River, not noticed in photo, in Kurume city, Fukuoka prefecture, southern Japan Wednesday, July 8, 2020.
(Kyodo News via AP)

Public broadcaster NHK showed a swollen river gouging in to its embankment and destroying a highway. In the town of Gero, the rising river was flowing just underneath a bridge.

Flooding and mudslides blocked elements of the main road connecting Kamikochi and Matsumoto, two major holiday destinations in Nagano, stranding a huge selection of residents and visitors, though they were thought to have safely evacuated.

This aerial photo shows the flooded area near the swollen Chikugo River, right, in Kurume city, Fukuoka prefecture, southern Japan Wednesday, July 8, 2020.

This aerial photo shows the flooded area near the swelled up Chikugo River, right, in Kurume city, Fukuoka prefecture, southern Japan Wednesday, July 8, 2020.
(Kyodo News via AP)

In neighboring Gifu, the local government ordered “elderly people, persons with disabilities, infants and their supporters” to evacuate the area on Wednesday, with all other residents being told to “prepare.”

Video filmed in Gifu shows the Nagara River overflowing after heavy rain.

A quantity of homes in the city of Takayama were also damaged.

“Sand and rocks plunged down, jumped the river, and slammed into the houses,” one resident told NHK.

JAPAN FLOODING DEATH TOLL RISES TO 49 AS MORE HEAVY RAIN HITS REGION

At the peak, as many as 3.6 million people were advised to evacuate, although it was not mandatory and the number who sought shelter was not known. About half the advisories had been lifted by Wednesday afternoon.

As the rains pounded central Japan, flooding continued to affect the southern region of the country.

This aerial photo show a damaged bridge lies on the swollen Kusu River after heavy rains in Hita, Oita prefecture, southern Japan Wednesday, July 8, 2020.

This aerial photo show a damaged bridge lies on the swelled up Kusu River after heavy rains in Hita, Oita prefecture, southern Japan Wednesday, July 8, 2020.
(Junko Ozaki/Kyodo News via AP)

Keisuke Masuda, a 67-year-old resident of Hitoyoshi, said that he watched his neighbor be carried away in a distended river.

“He was swept away right before my eyes,” Masuda told the Jiji news agency.

A schoolyard of a junior high school is seen flooded following heavy rains in Gero, Gifu prefecture, central Japan Wednesday, July 8, 2020.

A schoolyard of a junior senior high school is seen flooded following heavy rains in Gero, Gifu prefecture, central Japan Wednesday, July 8, 2020.
(Kyodo News via AP)

Tens of thousands of army troops, police, and other rescue workers mobilized from across the country to help.

Rescue operations have already been hampered by the rains, flooding, mudslides, and disrupted communications.

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Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga urged residents to use caution.

“Disasters may happen even with little rain where ground has loosened from previous rainfall,” he said.

Residents and firefighters put away debris carried by the floodwater in Gero, Gifu prefecture, central Japan Wednesday, July 8, 2020.

Residents and firefighters set aside debris carried by the floodwater in Gero, Gifu prefecture, central Japan Wednesday, July 8, 2020.
(Yuya Shino/Kyodo News via AP)

Suga pledged continuing search and rescue efforts, as well as emergency funds for affected areas.

Japan is at risky of heavy rain in early summer when wet and hot air from the East China Sea flows into a seasonal rain front above the nation.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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