1.6m evacuated, 100 dead or missing in Japan
TOKYO • At least 48 people were missing as torrential rain that has killed 49 people pounded western and central Japan, public broadcaster NHK said yesterday, with more than 1.6 million people evacuated from their homes.
Japan's Meteorological Agency issued special weather warnings across four prefectures in the west of Japan's main island of Honshu, urging vigilance against landslides, rising rivers and strong winds amid what it called "historic" rains.
Local television showed overflowing rivers, submerged vehicles and homes crushed under landslides. Footage showed a wooden bridge being washed away in Hiroshima by a rain-swollen muddy river.
Rescue workers dug into the dirt as landslides crushed houses in Hiroshima Prefecture, with at least 10 people buried alive, while several people evacuated to their rooftops as floods swamped entire residential areas in the Okayama region.
Four people in Ehime, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures were in critical condition after being injured in landslides, NHK said.
Some areas have been hit by more than a metre of rainfall, according to the government.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered his ministers to "make an all-out effort" to rescue victims, saying: "The situation is extremely serious."
In Motoyama, a town on Shikoku island, about 600km from Tokyo, 583mm of rain fell between last Friday and yesterday morning, the Meteorological Agency said.
The agency said that although a weather front had settled between western and eastern Japan, there was a risk that heavy rains would continue as warm air flowed towards the front.
Already-saturated areas face more rain today, it said.
Heavy rain also blanketed Osaka, halting factories and train lines.
Among the dead were a man who fell from a bridge into a river in the western city of Hiroshima, and a 77-year-old man in Takashima, about 56km east of Kyoto, who was swept into a canal as he worked to remove debris, NHK said.
A 52-year-old woman in Kyoto was also found dead by a river last Friday.
By yesterday morning, more than 1.6 million people had been ordered to evacuate their homes for fear of flooding and further landslides, with 3.1 million more advised to leave, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said around 48,000 police, firefighters and members of Japan's Self-Defence Forces were responding to appeals for help.
The weather also disrupted industry. Some auto-makers halted their production as the heavy rain and flooding disrupted supply chains and risked workers' safety, Kyodo news agency reported.
Mitsubishi Motors Corp halted operations at one plant because it could not get parts, Kyodo said.
Mazda Motor Corp also stopped production lines at two plants so employees would not have to travel in hazardous conditions.
REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE