Japan: Floods force hundreds of thousands to flee

Torrential rains have wreaked havoc in southern Japan, killing at least two and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee. 

Troops were working Thursday to rescue families left stranded by flooding in southern Japan. At least two people were reported dead and more than a dozen others were missing or unaccounted for in flooding that ruined homes, roads and rice terraces.

Heavy rain warnings were in effect for much of the main southern island of Kyushu after Typhoon Nanmadol swept across Japan earlier in the week.

Authorities in Fukuoka, in Kyushu, said four people suffered slight injuries. Hideki Tanaka, a Fukuoka disaster management official, said there were at least two unconfirmed reports of deaths. He said six others were missing and feared dead after they were swept by floodwater or buried underneath mudslides.

The national broadcaster NHK reported one man had died in neighboring Oita, but details were not immediately available.

On Wednesday, a 93-year-old man was found dead on a river bank in Hiroshima, in western Japan, most likely after having been swept away by flooding, police said. Hiroshima is on the main island of Honshu.

In one of the worst-hit towns, Asakura in Fukuoka, one man managed a narrow escape when a landslide crushed his home on a steep mountain slope, NHK said.

Television footage showed rice fields and homes flooded after a river swollen by the rains overflowed its banks, dragging vehicles into the riverbed and destroying dozens of buildings, as well as roads and bridges. Soldiers waded gingerly through floodwaters, carrying one elderly man to safety, and evacuated families using inflatable boats.

Many broken trees washed down from the mountains and were floating in flooded fields or blocking roads. Homes were without electricity, trains were suspended and parts of highways closed. Classes at dozens of schools, including those used as shelters, were canceled Thursday.

Rivers also flooded in nearby Oita, Ryutaro Fukui, a crisis management official in the city of Hita, told NHK.

Nearly 600,000 people were ordered or advised to evacuate in Fukuoka, but only a fraction of them did, in part because the heavy rain worsened during the night. Only about 1,800 people had sought refuge in schools and other public facilities as of early Thursday, according to the area’s disaster management website. In Oita, more than 270,000 people were subject to evacuation.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency said Fukuoka and Oita were experiencing unprecedented amounts of rain.

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By: AP