• Jiji, Kyodo, AFP-JIJI

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Torrential rain continued in wide areas of Japan on Saturday, with the Meteorological Agency issuing emergency warnings in parts of Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Saga and Nagasaki prefectures, all of which have registered record downpours.

A linear precipitation zone, a band of cumulonimbus clouds that causes very heavy rain, has formed in the region, the agency said. Landslides and flood damage are feared in a wide area stretching from western Japan to the northeastern part of the country with the seasonal front expected to hover over Honshu for a week, according to the agency.

The agency warned of potential danger and severe consequences.

Local authorities issued the highest level of alert to about 1.42 million people, or around 650,000 households, in the four prefectures, calling on them to take steps to ensure their safety immediately, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said.

A weather agency official also said heavy rain warnings could also be issued in some areas in western and eastern Japan.

“The rain front is very active, and the weather condition continues to allow a linear precipitation zone to be formed,” Ryuta Kurora, director of the agency’s Forecast Division, said at a news conference.

Disaster minister Yasufumi Tanahashi called upon residents in the affected areas “to take action to save their lives without hesitation if they feel even a slight threat.”

The Rokkaku River overflowed in Takeo, Saga Prefecture, according to officials. Saga prefectural officials warned that the downtown area in the city of Tosu could flood due to the failure of the drainage system. The Gono River, which flows in the western prefectures of Shimane and Hiroshima, also overflowed. An emergency discharge of water was conducted at the Koto River dam in Ube, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Ureshino, also in Saga, received 80.5 millimeters of rainfall in the hour through 1:50 a.m. and 918.5 millimeters in the 72 hours through 11 a.m., a record for the city.

A flooded road in Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture, on Saturday morning | KYODO
A flooded road in Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture, on Saturday morning | KYODO

For Ureshino and other municipalities, the maximum Level 5 warning, which urges residents to take action immediately to ensure their safety, was issued.

In the 24-hour period through Sunday morning, up to 300 millimeters of rainfall is forecast in the central region of Tokai, and up to 250 mm across wider areas including Shikoku and Kinki, the Kanto-Koshin region, and Kyushu.

Additionally, up to 200 mm is expected in the Chugoku region.

Meanwhile, the city government of Unzen, Nagasaki Prefecture, identified a person found in a rain-triggered mudslide Friday as Fumiyo Mori, 59.

The two others missing were identified as her husband Yasuhiro, 67, and their daughter Yuko, 32.

“More than 150 troops, police and firefighters were dispatched to the site for rescue operations,” local official Takumi Kumasaki said.

“They are carefully searching for the missing residents, while watching out for further mudslides as the heavy rain continues.”

Scientists say climate change is intensifying the risk of heavy rain in Japan and elsewhere because a warmer atmosphere holds more water.

Downpours last month caused a devastating landslide in the central resort town of Atami that killed 23 people, with four still missing.

And in 2018, more than 200 people died as floods inundated western Japan during the country’s annual rainy season.

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