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Weather agency issues torrential rain warning, urges early evacuations for western Japan

Kyodo

The Meteorological Agency on Tuesday warned of torrential rain in western Japan in the coming days and urged people to evacuate early to protect themselves against life-threatening disasters.

It said parts of Kyushu could receive 80 millimeters or more of rain per hour through Thursday, and the precipitation through Friday could eclipse that seen in western Japan last July, when floods and mudslides left more than 200 people dead.

“We want people to understand that a situation in which they have to protect their own lives is imminent,” Ryuta Kurora, a senior forecaster at the agency, said during a hastily arranged news conference.

The Kyushu region is forecast to get 150 mm of rain in the 24 hours to Wednesday noon, 300 mm to 400 mm in the following 24 hours, and the rain could continue through Friday, the agency said.

Another expert also stressed the importance of evacuating early.

Eiichi Nakakita, a professor at Kyoto University’s Disaster Prevention Research Institute, said 200 mm to 300 mm of rain weakens the ground and makes it more susceptible to landslides. The professor said it is critical to check hazard maps around homes and, if necessary, evacuate even before local municipalities issue orders or advisories.

The Shikoku and Kansai regions are also expected to receive heavy rain.

The agency also warned of potential floods and mudslides, including incidents in which the bedrock layer of mountain slopes collapses and slides, along with the soil on top of it.

Heavy rain in western Japan forced Kyushu Railway Co. to temporarily suspend shinkansen bullet train services between Kumamoto and Kagoshima on Tuesday afternoon, while delays occurred on trains between Hakata and Kumamoto.

The annual rain front is expected to remain stationary between western and eastern Japan through Friday, and some parts of western Japan could get a month’s worth of rain in the 24 hours from Wednesday morning through Thursday, according to the agency.