• Kyodo, Jiji

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Rescue workers on Friday continued to search for 16 people missing in Kyushu following torrential rains that have inundated the island and surrounding region since last week.

Police resumed searching for five people missing in the cities of Yufu and Hita in Oita Prefecture, while the city of Hitoyoshi and the village of Kuma in Kumamoto Prefecture started accepting volunteer workers from within the prefecture to help remove flood debris.

Authorities in Kumamoto Prefecture, which has been hit hardest by the heavy downpours that began Saturday, said the death toll in the prefecture rose to 60 after confirming the death of another person, while 10 others remain missing. Including casualties in Fukuoka and Oita prefectures, a total of 63 people have died in Kyushu.

The land ministry announced Friday that 92 rivers were confirmed to have overflowed in 10 prefectures, including in Kumamoto and Gifu, and 225 mudslides have been recorded in 25 prefectures.

The Meteorological Agency predicted the heavy rains — possibly 50 to 80 millimeters per hour in some locations — will continue through Saturday, warning of more floods and landslides.

A seasonal rain front spanning from the Kyushu region to the Kanto region is expected to remain in the areas, and there is "a possibility of heavy downpours in western and eastern Japan lasting until at least Sunday," according to the agency.

The Kumamoto Prefectural Government's tally showed that a total of 93 evacuation centers in 18 municipalities in the prefecture were accommodating 2,055 people as of Thursday.

Of the evacuees, 1,143 were in Hitoyoshi, 426 in Kuma, and 197 in the city of Yatsushiro.

Health minister Katsunobu Kato said Friday the government plans to send antigen test kits to disaster-hit areas, as well as 10,000 masks and 1,000 1-liter bottles of sanitizer to Kumamoto to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections.

Hitoyoshi and Kuma began accepting volunteers Friday, although only those living in the prefecture for the time being to prevent the spread of the virus. Volunteers in Hitoyoshi are asked to get their temperatures taken when they register.

In Gifu Prefecture, some 680 people were cut off in the cities of Takayama and Gero due to mudslides and floodwater severing roads. But access was restored by Friday morning thanks to recovery efforts, according to local authorities.

Residents are attempting to clean up the damage even as the rain continues to fall.

Tamotsu Mori, 68, and his wife worked to remove the mud that now covers his property in Gero, where the Hida River had flooded.

He said that at one point, the water had risen up to their thighs.

"The water submerged the wood in our workshop, ruining it for our customers. How long is the rain going to last?" he asked.

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