Death toll rises to five after Japan flood: Media

A pet dog being rescued by soldiers by boat at a residential area flooded by the Kinugawa river in Joso, Japan's Ibaraki prefecture.
A pet dog being rescued by soldiers by boat at a residential area flooded by the Kinugawa river in Joso, Japan's Ibaraki prefecture. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - The number of people who died in floods which devastated Japan this week reached five on Sunday (Sept 13) as rescuers continued their search for more than a dozen still missing, local media said.

Police found the body of a man in Tochigi, north of Tokyo, in the early morning, the fifth located in the rescue operation, according to media.

The body, which has yet to be identified, was reportedly found inside a submerged car at a water-covered rice field in the town that also suffered floods.

The police and prefectural office were not available for comment.

Most severely hit was Joso, a community of 65,000 residents, parts of which were washed away Thursday when a levee on the Kinugawa river gave way, flooding an area that reportedly spans 32 sq km after the worst rains in decades.

Four days have passed since the flooding but search operations continued Sunday with a total of 1,800 rescuers including police, firemen, and the Self-Defence Forces scrabbling to find 15 people still missing from the town, public broadcaster NHK said.

The clock is ticking as the area expects heavy rain in the evening, which could further spread the water damage.

Officials said more than 5,000 people stayed at evacuation facilities in Joso Saturday night as over 4,000 houses were submerged and water supply was cut off.

"We do not know when the water system will be restored," the city website said.

The number of missing in Joso dropped from 22 to 15 Saturday after police found more victims alive, including a pair of eight-year-old children.

In Kanuma city, north of Joso, a 63-year-old woman was killed in a landslide, while a 48-year-old woman was also found dead in Miyagi prefecture, northern Japan.

The third victim was a 25-year-old man helping to clear clogged drains in the city of Nikko, which is known for its historic shrines.

Police also found the body of a man in another river in Miyagi who was believed to be a 62-year-old missing from the prefecture, according to local media.