Torrential rain lashed areas across southwestern and central Japan on Wednesday, prompting local governments to instruct around 870,000 people to evacuate.
The Meteorological Agency urged the public to remain vigilant against mudslides and flooding, even as it downgraded its alert for heavy rain from the highest level in more than 20 municipalities in Gifu and Nagano prefectures.
As of Wednesday afternoon, around 876,000 people in six prefectures were instructed to evacuate, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.
In central Japan, the prefectural government of Gifu urged roughly 219,000 residents to evacuate, while the government of neighboring Nagano also called for evacuations.
In Kyushu, Fukuoka and Kumamoto prefectures called for around 380,000 and 206,000 residents, respectively, to evacuate. Hyogo Prefecture in western Japan, too, has instructed people to evacuate.
In Kyushu, the death toll from the torrential rain that first struck southern parts of the island over the weekend rose to 57 on Wednesday, with five more feared dead and at least 13 missing.
A weather agency official told a news conference that the worst of the rain had moved to the central Japan region of Tokai from Kyushu, while warning areas forecast to receive heavy downfalls could change over time.
Nearly 5,000 residents in Gifu were temporarily cut off when roads were severed by mudslides, while the Hida River overflowed in the city of Gero, prompting the local meteorological observatory and the land ministry to issue their highest-level alert.
“The sound of rain was so loud it woke me up many times during the night,” said Manabu Kobayashi, 60, a construction company executive who lives in the city’s hard-hit Maze district, where around 400 households were cut off at one point.
The banks of the swollen Hida River were swept away causing part of a national road to collapse into the torrent, and dozens of households in the city have been flooded.
A mudslide also occurred near a tunnel in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, leaving a number of hotel guests and employees stranded, according to the Nagano government.
The heavy rain had also forced 2,244 schools and universities in 17 prefectures to suspend classes as of Wednesday, according to the education ministry.
The agency said that while the area of rainfall had shifted to the Pacific Ocean, a seasonal front is expected to hover near Japan’s main island of Honshu around Friday.
There is concern that further rain will lead to even higher water levels downstream, triggering new disasters.
After the Chikugo and Oita rivers flooded early Wednesday in Oita Prefecture, there have been reports of houses and a vehicle with four passengers being swept away.
As of Wednesday morning, 22 rivers in Kyushu and Ehime were confirmed to have flooded, and mudslides had occurred at more than 100 locations, according to the land ministry.
Around 3,800 households in Kumamoto alone were temporarily cut off, with rescue operations still ongoing.