900,000 evacuated, two dead in Japan flood chaos

People wading through floodwaters in Saga city, Japan, yesterday. The authorities said they received multiple reports of houses flooded in Saga prefecture.
People wading through floodwaters in Saga city, Japan, yesterday. The authorities said they received multiple reports of houses flooded in Saga prefecture.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • Torrential rain triggered floods and landslides in Japan yesterday, killing at least two people and prompting the authorities to order more than 900,000 people to leave their homes, while another million were advised to move to safety.

More than twice the usual rainfall for the whole of August has fallen over parts of the southern island of Kyushu over the past 48 hours, washing away roads, causing rivers to burst their banks and forcing the suspension of train services.

Police said a man was confirmed dead after being found in a car that was swept away by floodwaters on a road in the city of Takeo, in Saga prefecture, while another man died after he was helped out of his light vehicle by a neighbour but was then washed away during flooding in Yame in the neighbouring Fukuoka prefecture.

A woman was found without signs of life - used by the Japanese authorities to describe people yet to be officially confirmed as dead - in her car after it fell into a waterway in Saga.

"I woke up and the water was ankle-deep in my house, which has never happened before," one man in an evacuation centre told NHK. "So I played it safe and evacuated early before things got any worse."

In one part of Saga, 427mm of rain fell in the 48 hours up to 5pm local time yesterday. A number of vehicles were seen submerged and the JR Saga station was flooded.

Resident Takaaki Matsuo, 56, said: "It usually takes about five minutes to come to the station from my home, but (today) it took me an hour as it was difficult to walk in water up to my knees."

Though the authorities withdrew a warning of historically heavy rain by the afternoon, rain was expected to keep falling overnight, prompting additional warnings about flooding and landslides.

More than 900,000 people were ordered to evacuate, said NHK, while Japan's Fire and Disaster Management Agency said just over a million others were advised to leave their homes.

A 59-year-old man, who was evacuated with his family to a temple in Takeo, said: "The whole area was under water, and we couldn't even see the roofs of vehicles."

The authorities said they received multiple reports of houses flooded in Saga prefecture, and officials were working to confirm details of the damage.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said in a press conference yesterday morning: "We are seeing unprecedented levels of heavy rain in cities where we issued special warnings."

Weather agency official Yasushi Kajiwara said: "It is a situation where you should do your best to protect your lives."

He urged those facing evacuation advisories to act before the warning was upgraded further, saying: "Please don't wait."

Television footage showed roads and railroad stations inundated and people wading knee-deep in flooded streets after several rivers broke their banks. Twitter users posted videos of muddy brown torrents pouring through the streets.

"The first floor of our house is flooded and a total wreck, so we're here on the second floor, awaiting rescue," one person posted on Twitter. "We can see the firemen out there moving around, but our street is such a mess they don't seem to want to come in."

The Ground Self-Defence Force - Japan's military - said it deployed about 100 troops for disaster relief after a request from Saga prefecture.

Toyota Motor said yesterday that it would suspend work at a factory in Kyushu that builds Lexus cars, while Daihatsu Motor said it would stop work at factories in the region.



Southern Japan hit by heavy rain and floods

An unprecedented downpour battered southern Japan yesterday, prompting local governments to instruct almost a million people to evacuate as rivers overflowed and landslides struck. The torrential rain left at least two people dead and vast areas of Kyushu, including Takeo (above), submerged in floodwaters. The authorities have warned of more damage as the heavy rain is expected to continue overnight.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2019, with the headline '900,000 evacuated, two dead in Japan flood chaos'. Subscribe