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Torrential rains lash Japan, three feared dead after landslide

Torrential rains lash Japan, three feared dead after landslide

Firefighters search for missing people following heavy rain in an area in the Obama neighborhood of Unzen, Nagasaki prefecture, southern Japan, Aug 15, 2021. (Photo: AP/Nagasaki Kenou Wide Area Fire Department)

TAKEO, Japan: Torrential rains lashed much of Japan on Sunday (Aug 15), submerging roads and buildings in the western part of the country, while three people were feared dead after a landslide in central Nagano prefecture.

Large parts of Japan, particularly the southernmost main island of Kyushu, have seen record levels of rainfall, causing rivers to overflow and triggering landslides.

While the rain had stopped in much of Kyushu as of Sunday morning, Tokyo and other parts of the country were pounded by the downpour.

Japan "will continue to face conditions in which a large-scale disaster could occur at anytime, anywhere," Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said at a ministerial meeting on Sunday. He called on local municipalities and relevant organisations to cooperate and act with speed on rescue missions and aid.

"We must be on high alert even in areas where the rain has tapered off," Suga added.

In Takeo, a city in Saga prefecture in Kyushu, entire roads were submerged as rescue workers in wetsuits dragged inflatable boats and surveyed the damage. Local residents carried broomsticks and buckets and waded knee-deep in water.

"I've experienced three floods like this so far, but this is the worst," said Toshimi Kusumoto, a 68-year-old doctor whose clinic was flooded.

Kusumoto waited out the rain with his family on the second floor of his house, he said, located just behind the clinic.

The water reached his house too, meaning most of the appliances on the ground floor would have to be replaced. His garage was bent out of shape, presumably from the pressure of the water.

His son Daigo said their family was prepared for the flooding but was concerned over the frequency at which torrential downpours were pummelling the area, and was considering re-building his house to raise the ground level.

He had rebuilt the house only four years ago and it had seen two floods already.

"It's a bit much if it happens this frequently," Daigo said, as he hosed down the mud in front of the house.

In 2019, Takeo city was hit by a record-hitting downpour that killed three people. The government at the time estimated that such a deluge would only happen once every few decades.

"But what can you do?" said Toshimi, with a slight shrug.

Takayuki Haraguchi, 68, who works as a caretaker at a local sports centre, had come to survey the damage briefly when it was raining on Saturday.

"It looked no different from the sea," he said as he recalled what he saw on Saturday morning.

He pointed out cars that had been submerged in muddy waters and vending machines that would have to be replaced.

Elsewhere in Saga prefecture, 113 patients at a local hospital and 69 nursing home residents at the same site were safely evacuated to the higher floors after flooding, public broadcaster NHK said. Footage from NHK showed the hospital building and surrounding area flooded with water, which reached the top of the tyres of cars parked in the hospital parking lot.

Three people, including a boy under 10, were without vital signs after a landslide hit a house in Okaya city, in central Nagano, NHK said.

Source: Reuters/zl

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