• Kyodo, Reuters, Jiji


Heavy rain pummeled western and southwestern Japan on Friday, leaving one person dead and at least two others missing in a mudslide, with the country’s weather agency issuing warnings across wide areas of the country.

The Meteorological Agency issued its highest level rain alert in Hiroshima Prefecture, warning of possible flooding, swollen rivers and mudslides.

In Kyushu, a woman was confirmed dead and two others remain missing after a mudslide damaged two homes in Unzen, Nagasaki Prefecture, according to local authorities.

A Level 5 warning has been declared in the city of Hiroshima’s Asakita Ward, the city of Akitakata and the town of Kitahiroshima in the prefecture, the highest on Japan’s five-tier alert scale, urging residents to take action to ensure their safety immediately. Akitakata observed 61.5 millimeters of rainfall in the hour though around 8:35 a.m.

At 12:30 p.m., the land ministry and others said the upstream of the Gonokawa River had overflowed in the city of Miyoshi.

“Residents must secure their safety immediately, as their lives are in danger,” Ryuta Kurora, director of the agency’s Forecast Division, said at a news conference in Tokyo.

Kuroda added that a special warning may also be issued for other municipalities.

The agency said at 9:19 a.m. that a linear precipitation zone had been confirmed in the prefecture. A linear precipitation zone is formed when cumulonimbus clouds develop one after another, causing very heavy rain to continue to fall in the same place.

The agency said the rain front is expected to remain for about a week, raising concerns over even more rainfall.

The special warning for heavy rain in Hiroshima is first to have been issued in the city since the torrential rains in July 2018.

Record rains were seen in Nagasaki and Kumamoto prefectures as well. Landslide warnings were issued in parts of all prefectures in Kyushu except Miyazaki, as well as in Hiroshima, Ehime, Ishikawa, Toyama and Niigata prefectures.

Areas such as the city of Nagasaki declared Level 4 warnings instructing residents to evacuate.

A landslide triggered by torrential rain in Unzen on Friday swallowed up two houses. A 59-year-old woman was rescued from one of the houses and rushed to the hospital, but was soon confirmed dead.

Authorities have not been able to confirm the safety of a 67-year-old man and a 32-year-old woman, who are believed to be the deceased woman’s family members.

A man in his 60s, who has been confirmed to be conscious, was rescued from the other house.

The landslide was reported around 4:10 a.m. by an employee of a nearby lodging facility.

Record amounts of rain were observed in Unzen and Shimabara in the prefecture, with over 740 milliliters and 540 mm recorded, respectively, in the 48 hours through Friday morning, the weather agency said. In Amakusa, Kumamoto Prefecture, record downpours of 520 mm were also recorded in the same period.

In the 24 hours through noon on Saturday, up to 300 millimeters of rainfall is expected in northern Kyushu, while up to 250 millimeters is expected for southern Kyushu and the regions of Shikoku, Kinki, Tokai and Kanto-Koshin. Also, up to 200 millimeters is expected in the Chugoku region, up to 180 millimeters in the Hokuriku region and up to 120 millimeters in Tohoku.

In the following 24 hours, 200 to 300 millimeters of rainfall is expected in Kyushu, Shikoku, Kinki, Tokai and Kanto-Koshin, 100 to 200 millimeters in Chugoku and Hokuriku, and 50 to 100 millimeters in Tohoku.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s office set up a disaster control center on Friday to handle potential disasters.

“Torrential rains could continue in regions around western Japan,” Suga said.

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