At least 16 dead as heavy rain triggers flooding and mudslides in Japan

More than 20 people are still missing

At least 16 people are dead after torrential rain in Japan triggered massive floods and mudslides.

The deluge in Kumamoto, on the south-western island of Kyushu, destroyed houses, swept vehicles away and caused bridges to collapse, leaving many towns submerged and communities cut off.

Helicopters and boats rescued many people from their homes and up to 10,000 defence troops, the coastguard and fire brigades are involved in the operation.

Nursing homes for the elderly have been hit hard by the flooding, in which 10 centimetres of rain fell each hour.

At the flooded Senjuen care home in the village of Kuma, at least 14 residents were presumed dead on Saturday, officials said. Three others had hypothermia.

The rescue continued on Sunday for dozens of other residents and caregivers who were still at the centre.

About 60 people were trapped when floodwater and mud gushed into the riverside building, officials said.

Overall, Kumamoto officials said they could confirm 18 presumed dead, including the 14 at the nursing home, as they continued to assess the damage.

Sixteen were confirmed dead, 16 presumed dead and 14 missing, NHK TV reported.

“We will do our utmost to prevent the spread of the infection and make the lives of those who had to flee their home as comfortable as possible,” said Ryota Takeda, Minister of Disaster Management.

Mr Takeda earlier visited a gymnasium in Hitoyoshi city where 600 residents are sheltering.

The deluge poured into houses near the main train station in Hitoyoshi.

“The water rose to the second floor so fast and I just couldn’t stop shivering,” a woman, 55, who was visiting family members, told the Asahi newspaper.

She and her relatives ran upstairs, swam out of the window and took refuge on the roof to wait for rescuers.

More than 200,000 residents in Kumamoto prefecture were urged to flee after the rains on Friday evening and into Saturday.

But evacuation was not mandatory and many people chose to stay at home because they feared catching the coronavirus, despite officials saying shelters are adequately equipped with partitions and other safety measures.

Flooding also cut off power and communication lines, further hampering the search and rescue.

About 6,000 homes in Kumamoto were still without electricity on Sunday, Kyushu Electric Power Company said.

Updated: July 6, 2020 12:39 AM

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