TOKYO • Hundreds of thousands of people across a wide swathe of western and central Japan were evacuated from their homes yesterday as torrential rain flooded rivers and set off landslides, killing at least four people.
Three people were found dead near rain-swollen rivers yesterday, officials said, as record downpour prompted the authorities to order more than 210,000 people to evacuate their homes, with some areas hit by more than a metre of rainfall.
The body of a woman was found next to a river in central Japan's Gifu, while a 59-year-old man was confirmed dead after being found beside a river in western Hiroshima prefecture, local police said.
A 52-year-old woman in the Kyoto region who went missing on Thursday night was found dead near a river in neighbouring Osaka prefecture, according to police. Police said they were investigating how the three died.
On Thursday, a construction worker was killed when he was swept away by floodwaters in the Hyogo region. Several people have been reported missing, including a man whose car was swept away as he delivered milk and a boy who was swept into a ditch, NHK national television said.
A total of 230 people in western Kochi prefecture were unable to evacuate as roads were blocked by landslides, a local official said.
Authorities announced new evacuation orders yesterday, bringing the number of people told to leave their homes to 210,853, most of them in western Japan.
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) issued its strongest possible warning about the "historic" rainfall and said more was set to batter already saturated areas through tomorrow, raising the danger of more landslides and major damage. The agency upgraded its warning to "special", the highest level, in southern Fukuoka, Saga and Nagasaki prefectures.
"Fukuoka, Saga and Nagasaki are seeing heavy rain that they have never experienced," agency official Yasushi Kajiwara told reporters. "It's in an unusual state with imminent, grave danger," he said.
Yanase in Umaji village, Kochi prefecture, saw 1,190mm of rain in 72 hours, which is double the total amount that usually falls in the month of July, according to the JMA website.
The downpour temporarily halted bullet train services in western and central Japan, which resumed later yesterday.
The rain appeared to have been touched off by warm, humid air flowing up from the Pacific Ocean and intensifying the activity of a seasonal rain front. Remnants of a now-dissipated typhoon that brushed Japan this week also contributed, officials said.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE