Heavy rain prompts evacuation order for 1 million in southwestern Japan

Kyodo News

Posted at Jul 03 2019 10:36 PM

Rescue workers and local residents watch Wada River swollen due to heavy rain in Kagoshima, southwestern Japan, on July 3, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Kyodo/via Reuters

Torrential rain continued to pound parts of southwestern Japan on Wednesday, prompting authorities to instruct over 1 million residents in Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures to evacuate ahead of more downpours that could trigger floods and mudslides.

In the city of Kagoshima, where all 590,000 residents were told to evacuate, elderly people and others huddled in shelters to wait out the storm. Some evacuees in Kumamoto city were seen carrying their bedding to evacuation centers to spend the night.

The Japan Meteorological Agency has warned of heavy rain in southwestern and western Japan through the next day.

Holding an emergency press conference for the second straight day, the agency urged people to be on high alert, saying it might issue a special rain warning to Kagoshima and Kumamoto prefectures, which are expected to be especially hard-hit.

The same warning was issued when western Japan was hit by devastating rainfall last July, with mudslides and floods leaving more than 200 people dead, mostly in Hiroshima, Okayama and Ehime prefectures.

"The sound of the rain is so strong that it worries me," one evacuee said.

Kumiko Jufuku, a 77-year-old who lives alone in the city of Kagoshima, also said she fled her home as she grew worried about landslides. "I cannot walk well so I cannot survive if I'm struck by a disaster."

The city of Kanoya in Kagoshima Prefecture saw 81 millimeters of rain per hour on Wednesday afternoon, with some areas in the Kyushu region and other parts of western Japan likely to receive a month's worth of rainfall in 24 hours, according to the agency.

Kagoshima Gov. Satoshi Mitazono requested the dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces amid heightened risks of a major disaster.

In the 24 hours through 6 a.m. Thursday, the agency forecast up to 350 mm of rain in southern Kyushu, up to 300 mm in northern Kyushu, and up to 250 mm in the Shikoku region.

The Kinki region, covering Osaka, was forecast to get 150 mm of rain, while the Tokai region centered on Nagoya, was predicted to get 120 mm. The Chugoku region around Hiroshima, and the Hokuriku area facing the Sea of Japan were also expected to see heavy rainfall, according to the agency.

It said a rainy front is expected to stay over the Japanese archipelago through Saturday, and could also drench eastern Japan.