National

Kyushu remains on high alert as record downpour continues

Central government sends in 12,000 rescuers; volunteer centers set to open

Kyodo

The death toll in Kyushu rose to 11 on Friday as flooding and mudslides caused by the torrential rain over the past couple of days continued.

While a flood warning was issued in Kitakyushu, evacuation orders remained in effect for about 191,000 people in nearby Fukuoka, Oita and Kumamoto prefectures, with rain expected to continue falling through Saturday, according to the Meteorological Agency.

Over 2,200 people have sought shelter in Fukuoka and Oita, according to the government, which has stepped up rescue efforts by dispatching 12,000 personnel including Self-Defense Forces troops, police officers and firefighters.

Tokyo is also 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 Friday at a ministerial meeting convened to address the disaster.

The SDF and firefighters were searching for at least 26 people and trying to extract around 700 stranded in Fukuoka and Oita.

The social welfare council of Hita in Oita Prefecture said it will start accepting volunteers Saturday to clean and repair damaged houses in the city. The city of Asakura in Fukuoka Prefecture is also preparing to open a volunteer center.

In Asakura, 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. The body of Shigehiro Urazuka, a 70-year-old farmer, was also found to have been swept away.

In Hita, 43-year-old firefighter Taketo Yamamoto was found dead after being swept away by a mudslide, and the body of Hidetoshi Yano, 79, was found in a river.

According to an Asakura municipal official, 11 people were newly listed Friday as unaccounted for.

Fukuoka, Nagasaki and Kumamoto were getting over 50 mm of rain an hour early Friday.

Although emergency warnings have been lifted, the weather agency urged residents to stay vigilant for mudslides after ground was loosened by a third day of rain Friday.

Conditions remained unstable in western Japan as moist air moved toward a seasonal rain front hovering over the Tsushima Strait, the Meteorological Agency said.

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