National

At least eight dead, 46 missing as record heavy rainfall continues to pound western, central parts of nation

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

This is a developing news story. Click for a more recent report about the heavy rainfall in western/central Japan.


Record heavy rainfall continued to pound western and central parts of the nation Saturday, leaving at least eight people dead and 46 others missing due to landslides and swollen rivers, according to the the Meteorological Agency. With agency forecasting continued rain over the weekend, officials in western Japan have warned residents of flooding along canals, riverbanks and further mudslides.

As of Friday afternoon, evacuation orders had been issued for nearly 170,000 people in nine prefectures in Kansai and other regions, including those affected by last month’s magnitude 6.1 earthquake in Osaka Prefecture, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

Among the eight killed were Kazuhiko Miyane, 59, who was confirmed dead after being found in a swollen river in Akitakata, Hiroshima Prefecture, at about 6 a.m. He is believed to have been washed away from near his house, police said. Sachie Takigami, a 52-year-old woman from Kameoka in Kyoto Prefecture was also found dead in the river in neighboring Osaka Prefecture after she was apparently swept away on the Kameoka side by the same river, local police said.

Landslides hit several locations in Hiroshima Prefecture. On Friday evening reports started coming in saying that residents had been “buried alive” after landslides had hit their homes. Rescue workers were sent to the locations where the disasters hit.

A landslide struck a residential neighborhood in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, around 7:30 a.m. Six people were rescued from the site in the city’s Moji Ward, rescue workers said. As of Friday afternoon, they were trying to confirm whether a man and his wife in their 60s were buried alive. The Fukuoka Prefectural Government requested that the Ground Self-Defense Force send a disaster relief team. In Kyoto’s Arashiyama district, authorities were keeping an eye on the Katsura River, which was threatening to overflow its banks. Parts of Kyoto issued evacuation recommendations Friday afternoon.

The Osaka District Meteorological Observatory warned Friday morning that the rain, expected to continue over the weekend, could force more evacuations in Osaka, Kyoto and Shiga prefectures due to concerns about flash floods and landslides. Mudslide warnings have also been issued for the Kyushu, Shikoku and the Chugoku regions.

Many trains, buses and subway lines in western Japan, as well as Osaka, Kyoto and other parts of the Kansai region, including Shiga Prefecture and the Lake Biwa area, were suspended, delayed or running reduced services Friday morning.

In central Osaka, some shops were closed Friday morning due to the rain and the streets and subway stations appeared less crowded than normal.

“I can’t remember it ever raining this heavily. It feels like parts of Southeast Asia during the monsoon season,” said Junichi Wakamoto, 56, who was heading through Osaka Station on his way to Kobe.

“I’m not sure what to do given that it’s supposed to rain hard on Saturday and Sunday as well, and transportation could be disrupted again,” said Kaori Sasaki, 32, who said she had plans to visit Kyoto. The threat of mudslides and floods over the next few days is particularly worrisome in more rural parts of the country. The Meteorological Agency has warned that in the 24 hour period to 6 a.m. Saturday, some 400 mm of rain is predicted to fall on Shikoku, with the Kanto, Koshin, Tokai and northern Kyushu regions seeing up to 300 mm during the same time frame. The Kansai, Chugoku and southern Kyushu regions could be hit by 250 mm of rain

Information from Kyodo added