Japan sees extreme weather conditions - from cold snap in Hokkaido to deluge in Kyushu

A swollen river caused by heavy rain in Nagomi town, Kumamoto prefecture, on Aug 12, 2021.
A swollen river caused by heavy rain in Nagomi town, Kumamoto prefecture, on Aug 12, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO - Just days after Japan's northernmost island Hokkaido baked in record heat, an unseasonably cold snap saw temperatures plunging on Thursday (Aug 12) to among their lowest on record for the month.

At the same time, the island of Kyushu in the south-west is being pounded by a torrential deluge, with some areas encountering in a single day what is typically a full month's worth of precipitation for August.

These extreme weather patterns are raising concerns about the impact of climate change on Japan, where 7,943 people were admitted to hospital nationwide last week amid a scorching heatwave.

Two weeks after Wakkanai in Hokkaido set its highest temperature on record of 32.7 deg C on July 29, the mercury tumbled to just 2.6 deg C around dawn on Thursday - the city's lowest reading for August in 128 years.

Sapporo, some 300km to the south, was a cool 13.9 deg C on Thursday morning, compared with the 26 deg C recorded at 7am on Sunday, when the Olympic men's marathon event flagged off. A combination of the heat and brutal humidity led 30 out of the 106 competitors to pull out.

On Kyushu, Japan's third-largest island, evacuation advisories were issued on Thursday to some 400,000 people because of the risk of flooding and landslides, with the region battered by a slow-moving rain front.

Six of the seven prefectures in Kyushu - Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita and Kagoshima - had areas under evacuation advisories.

Public broadcaster NHK aired footage showing rivers overflowing and homes being flooded with muddy water.

The heavy rain led to a suspension of shinkansen bullet train services on Thursday between Kumamoto and Kagoshima-Chuo stations.

The Japan Meteorological Agency is warning that the rain front will move across the country over the next week, and urged extreme caution for many areas.

Record precipitation in the summers of recent years have triggered deadly floods and landslides. Some 225 people died in western Japan in 2018, while more recently, a landslide in the resort town of Atami on July 3 killed 23 people and left five missing.