Continuing rain halts rescue work

Five people remain missing amid more downpours in west

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Heavy rain continued Sunday in western Japan, forcing rescue workers to call off their search for three people in Yamaguchi Prefecture and two people in Fukuoka Prefecture.

Heavy rain hit northern Kyushu as well as Yamagata and Hiroshima prefectures Friday and Saturday, leaving at least seven people dead.

Rain of up to 70 mm an hour was predicted in those areas until Monday morning, the agency said.

The two missing people in Fukuoka Prefecture are Masako Motozawa, 61, and her daughter, Ryoko, 34, whose house in Sasaguri collapsed.

The city of Fukuoka issued a recommendation Sunday for more than 20,000 households to evacuate from Chuo and Hakata wards and other areas, citing the possibility that two local rivers could overflow their banks.

Workers started piling sandbags along Nakagawa River to prepare for a possible flood.

Similar evacuation recommendations were issued in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture, and the city of Saga.

According to police, the rain caused a landslide along a road in Onojo, Fukuoka Prefecture, in the afternoon that hit one car, and at least one person was trapped inside. Rescue activities were under way as of Sunday night, but no further details were immediately available.

Workers suspended their search activities in Yamaguchi Prefecture Sunday morning out of fear the continuing heavy rain could cause secondary disasters, officials said.

The torrential rain that hit Hofu and Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture earlier last week 14 people dead and three missing, including those living in a nursing home for elderly people.

In Sasaguri, Fukuoka Prefecture, more than 100 rescue workers had been waiting in the morning to resume their search activities but gave up for the day out of safety fears.

Police, firefighters and Ground Self-Defense Force personnel were hoping to resume their activities Monday morning, officials said.

Residents of Sasaguri had evacuated to a local community center. But the center was flooded under the floor Sunday morning and about 60 people moved to another shelter, transported by police and GSDF vehicles, officials said.