National

Hundreds in Hiroshima region evacuate amid downpours as rainy season begins in much of Japan

Kyodo

Heavy rainfall hit parts of western Japan beginning early Friday, causing more than 800 people to evacuate their homes and disrupting train services throughout the region.

In Hiroshima Prefecture alone, 775 people had fled to shelters as of 10 a.m. Friday, while dozens more in Yamaguchi and Ehime prefectures had also sought refuge. No injuries have been reported in those areas, where more than 200 people were killed due to torrential rains last July.

The Meteorological Agency said total rainfall in the half-day period through Friday morning exceeded 200 millimeters in the village of Umaji, Kochi Prefecture, and 170 mm in the town of Taragi, Kumamoto Prefecture.

Municipal governments in the cities of Hiroshima, Iwakuni in Yamaguchi, and Shunan and Uwajima in Ehime issued evacuation advisories, and the government issued a Level 4 warning for heavy rain and floods — meaning a mandatory evacuation for all residents in specific areas. The government launched the five-level warning system, designed to give residents a clearer idea of the situation, on May 29 after many people were slow to evacuate and fell victim to the floods in western Japan last summer.

Level 1 indicates people should be on alert, Level 2 means people should make sure they know how and where to evacuate to, Level 3 means elderly people should start evacuating, Level 4 means all residents should evacuate immediately and Level 5 means there is a high possibility of disasters occurring.

In Hiroshima, Sanyo Line services were suspended for about two hours from 6 a.m. after parts of the track flooded. Some 15,000 people were affected, with 23 trains suspended or delayed, West Japan Railway Co. said.

Sanyo Shinkansen services and several Japan Railway and private train lines in the region were also temporarily suspended.

The weather agency also said the rainy season appears to have started in wide areas of eastern, central and northeastern Japan on Friday. It declared the season has already started in Okinawa, the Amami region of Kagoshima Prefecture and southern Kyushu.

The Meteorological Agency projected a maximum of 200 mm of rain would fall in Shikoku in the 24 hours through 6 a.m. Saturday, as well as 120 mm for southern Kyushu, Kinki and Tokai, and 100 mm for northern Kyushu.

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