Torrential rain triggered mass flooding and mudslides across southern Japan ton Saturday, leaving at least one confirmed death, more than a dozen people feared dead and many more missing.
National broadcaster NHK reported that 18 people had been found without “vital signs” following downpours in some regions that were called unprecedented.
“No vital signs” is a phrase often used in Japan before death is officially confirmed.
Flooded care home
Among those presumed dead are 14 residents of a nursing home.
According to NHK, some 60 elderly people were staying at the riverside care home Senjuen, when floodwaters and mud poured in, stranding its occupants.
Kumamoto Governor Ikuo Kabashima said three other residents were being treated for hypothermia.
Overnight rains initially inundated parts of Kumamoto, on the island of Kyushu, with an estimated 100 millimeters (4 inches) per hour.
Several people were reported missing and dozens were left stranded on rooftops waiting to be rescued by helicopter, officials said.
Tens of thousands ordered to leave
Authorities ordered more than 200,000 people on Kyushu to leave their homes and seek refuge.
Some 76,500 people in Kumamoto and Kagoshima prefectures fled their homes as the flooding cut off power and communication lines.
Bird’s-eye view of flooded areas in Hitoyoshi
Heavy rainfall is expected to continue into Sunday
Television reports showed houses and cars submerged in muddy waters from a flooding Kuma River in Kumamoto.
“I smelled mud, and the whole area was vibrating with river water. I’ve never experienced anything like this,” a man at a shelter in Yatsushiro city in western Kumamoto told national Japanese broadcaster NHK.
In Tsunagimachi district, two of three people buried underneath mudslides were pulled out without vital signs, Kumamoto prefectural crisis management official Takafumi Kobori said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said thousands of troops were being sent to Kyushu to help in rescue operations, calling on people in the area to remain on “maximum alert.” He said the utmost would be done to rescue the missing.
Abe said the rains were expected to continue into Sunday.
Tokyo meteorologists issued the highest warning level for many areas in Japan.
mvb, tj/mm (Reuters, dpa, AP)
Japan bolstered search and rescue operations on Monday, as the storm weakened to an extratropical cyclone over the Pacific Ocean. On Sunday, a 77-year-old woman died after she was accidentally dropped 40 meters (131 feet) from a rescue helicopter. The Tokyo Fire Department confirmed that the pensioner had not been strapped in properly while being airlifted in Iwaki city, Fukushima.
Thousands of troops and rescue workers have been deployed to save stranded residents and fight floods caused by one of the worst typhoons to hit the country in 60 years. Here, an elderly lady is seen on the back of a rescuer in Motomiya, in northern Japan.
Homes in Nagano, central Japan, were left submerged Sunday after the Chikuma River overflowed as a result of Typhoon Hagibis. Seventeen people remained unaccounted for across the country, according to the Kyodo News agency, after the storm unleashed record rainfall, triggering flooding and landslides.
The banks of 21 rivers across the country collapsed and nearly 150 overflowed, flooding nearby areas and causing major damage, including to this bridge over the Chikuma River in Tomi, Nagano. Dozens of landslides cut off road links, leaving people stranded.
The typhoon brought the country to a standstill. Flooded railway tracks and canceled trains caused commuter chaos, and more than 100 flights were scrapped, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.
The typhoon disrupted a three-day weekend in Japan that includes Sports Day on Monday. Three Rugby World Cup matches were canceled over the weekend, and qualifying at the Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit was postponed. On Sunday, fans closed their eyes during the moment of silence for the typhoon victims before the rugby match between Japan and Scotland in Yokohama.
Hagibis hurtled toward Japan with wind speeds reaching 216 kilometers per hour (134 miles per hour), according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Authorities had warned Hagibis was on a par with a typhoon that wreaked havoc in the Tokyo region in 1958, but modern safety infrastructure helped save lives. The typhoon six decades ago left over 1,200 people dead and half a million houses flooded.