ASAKURA (Japan) • At least three people have been killed and about 20 others are missing in huge floods surging through southern Japan, with hundreds of thousands of people ordered or urged to flee.
Unprecedented torrential rain has caused rivers to burst their banks, sweeping away roads and houses, and destroying schools.
Three people had been killed, three were in "cardiopulmonary arrest" and eight were injured, NHK reported, while about 300 were stranded, mostly in their homes, cut off by floods or landslides.
Thousands of soldiers and others were scrambling yesterday to reach people cut off by torrents of swirling water or threatened by landslides, the government said.
"We are in an extremely serious situation," Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso said, warning of the danger of collapsing hillsides and adding that "many people are still missing".
More than 50cm of rain deluged parts of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands, over 12 hours on Wednesday, the meteorological agency said.
Downpours will likely continue through today, the agency said as the region grapples with the aftermath of a typhoon that raked the country this week.
The authorities lifted "special" heavy rain warnings for the hardest-hit prefectures of Fukuoka and Oita, although other warnings, such as for rain, landslides and flooding, remained in place.
Japan is deploying 7,800 police officers, rescue personnel and troops in affected areas of Kyushu, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, telling reporters that "there are about 20 people who are unaccounted for".
They included a child reportedly carried off by a fast-flowing river and a couple who had not been seen since their house was swept away.
Television footage showed rolling waves from swollen rivers hitting residential areas, tearing up roads and inundating farmland.
Asakura was among the hardest hit with footage showing floodwaters surging through the streets.
Mr Ryoichi Nishioka, who grows flowers in the city, said he tried to save them from damage amid fast-rising waters the night before.
"I tried to protect them by covering them up but couldn't make it," he told AFP. "Then the swirling water flooded this area and swept away the greenhouses."
Mr Nishioka, 67, also described helping a man who clung to an electric pole as muddy waters rampaged through the area on Wednesday night. "We had a blackout, so I used a flashlight... and shone some light for him," he said. "I was calling out to encourage him for three hours from 9pm to midnight. The man was ultimately rescued," he added.
An elderly man in the hard-hit Haki district of Asakura told NHK how furniture bobbed in the floodwaters that inundated his home. "I dodged them and escaped in a gush of water," he said.
A railroad bridge has been destroyed by the raging Kagetsu river, disrupting train services, a railway spokesman said. Several other train lines were also forced to delay or stop operations due to heavy rain, while local officials called off primary and middle-school classes.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Heavy rain forces closure of train tunnel
CHANGSHA • More than 100 trains have been suspended after heavy rain flooded a tunnel on a key railway line through central China, according to railway authorities.
Water flowed into Liuyanghe Tunnel along the high-speed railway between Beijing and Guangzhou early yesterday, Xinhua reported.
The tunnel has been closed and maintenance crews are using equipment to pump out the water, Guangzhou Railway (Group) Corporation said.
Trains that pass through Hunan and Hubei provinces were affected. As of 10am yesterday, 104 train services had been suspended.
Torrential rain has lashed parts of central and southern China this week, with floods damaging crops, forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes and killing dozens. Provinces that have been affected include Hunan, Hubei, Anhui, Sichuan and Guizhou, Reuters reported.
Hunan, in particular, has been the hardest hit by the flooding after the annual rainy season arrived in the second half of June.
In Hunan, heavy rain since June 22 has killed 27 people, with eight still missing.
The floods have swamped houses, uprooted trees, damaged cars and submerged roads.
Over 300,000 people have been evacuated across Hunan, which has lost 295,000ha of crops and seen more than 6,000 homes destroyed.
900,000 affected in three districts
DHAKA • Devastating flooding in parts of Bangladesh has affected some 900,000 people and displaced thousands of families, the country's Disaster Management and Relief Ministry Secretary Shah Kamal told Xinhua.
According to the senior government official, the authorities have already rushed disaster response teams to carry out rescue work, distribute relief materials and supervise centres where nearly 2,000 families have taken shelter.
"Some 900,000 people are affected due to floods in three districts," Mr Kamal said on Wednesday. He said the affected districts were Sylhet and Moulvibazar in north-eastern Bangladesh and Cox's Bazar in the south-east.
The plight of millions of people in Bangladesh, criss-crossed by more than 230 rivers, mounts every year as the low-lying country experiences seasonal floods almost annually.
The floods triggered by heavy seasonal rains and an onrush of water from hills across the Indian borders have caused widespread damage to homes, crops, roads and highways across vast areas of the country.
The authorities have evacuated residents of hundreds of villages to higher ground in the districts that are prone to torrential rains between June and September.
Although many people have been affected, officials said on Wednesday that there were no disaster-related deaths from injuries or illness so far.
No let-up in deluge for Assam
GUWAHATI (India) • The death toll from worsening monsoon floods in India's Assam state has hit 18 with hundreds of thousands in makeshift camps and no let-up in the deluge, officials said yesterday.
"Monsoons are still ongoing. There are fresh developments every hour," Mr Rajib Prakash Barua, a senior Assam State Disaster Management Authority official, told AFP as he confirmed the latest death on Wednesday.
The monsoons started in the north-eastern state in April, said Mr Barua, speaking from the state's main city, Guwahati. "One person died yesterday, taking the overall death toll in the last week to five. Most people died either because of flooding or electrocution."
Officials say about 395,000 people have so far been affected in 863 villages across Assam's 15 districts.
Many people have moved to makeshift camps set up by the authorities on higher ground.
Jorhat and Sonitpur, around 300km and 190km from Guwahati, are among the worst-affected districts in the state. More storms are predicted tomorrow and in the coming days.