Seven dead as floods cause widespread devastation on Japan’s Kyushu island

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 2:13pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 2:12pm

The death toll from flooding and mudslides caused by severe downpours on Japan’s southwestern main island Kyushu rose to seven on Friday, as heavy rain continued in parts of the region.

A flood warning was issued for Kitakyushu, Fukuoka prefecture, while evacuation orders remained in place for about 191,000 people in Fukuoka, Oita and Kumamoto prefectures, with rain forecast through Saturday, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Over 2,200 people have taken shelter in Fukuoka and Oita, according to the government.

The government stepped up its rescue effort by dispatching a total of 12,000 personnel, consisting of Self-Defence Forces members, police officers and firefighters. It is sending a government survey team headed by disaster management minister Jun Matsumoto to Oita on Sunday.

“I want ministers to show their leadership for restoration and prevention of further damage,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Friday at a ministerial meeting to tackle the disaster.

SDF members and firefighters continued their rescue operations, with at least 26 people left unaccounted for and around 700 others stranded at one point in Fukuoka and Oita.

In Asakura in Fukuoka, the body of Tetsuo Fujimoto, 66, was discovered under driftwood while the bodies of Toshihiko Kato, 87, and his wife Mikiko, 85, were found near a wrecked house.

Among other casualties, Taketo Yamamoto, a 43-year-old firefighter, was found dead after being swept beneath a mudslide in Hita, Oita prefecture.

Although emergency warnings have been lifted, the weather agency continued to urge residents to stay vigilant for mudslides due to ground being loosened by a third straight day of rain on Friday.

Rain fall of over 50mm in an hour was recorded in Fukuoka, Nagasaki and Kumamoto prefectures early on Friday.

Weather conditions remained very unstable in western Japan as moist air seeped toward a seasonal rain front staying over the Tsushima Strait between Japan’s southwest and South Korea, the weather agency said.