|Flooding in Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto Prefecture. Photograph: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters|
Pounding rains that have already caused deadly floods in southern Japan have moved northeast, hammering large areas of Japan’s main island, swelling rivers, triggering mudslides and destroying homes and roads.
At least 58 people have died over several days of flooding. By Wednesday morning, parts of Nagano and Gifu in central Japan were flooded by unremitting downpours.
Footage on NHK television showed swollen water in the Hida River gouging into the embankment, destroying a national highway along the river. In the city of Gero, river water rose to just below a bridge.
In the mountainous town of Takayama, several houses were hit by a mudslide, with uprooted trees and other debris scattered around. It was not immediately known what happened to the residents.
Across Japan, about 3.6m people were advised to evacuate, although evacuation is not mandatory and the number of people who actually took shelter was not provided by authorities.
As of Wednesday morning, the death toll from the heavy rains that started over the weekend had risen to 58, most of them from the hardest-hit Kumamoto prefecture.
Though the rains were causing fresh flooding threats in central Japan, flooding was still affecting the southern region. Search and rescue operations continue in Kumamoto, where 14 people are still missing.
Tens of thousands of army troops, police, and other rescue workers have been mobilised from around the country to assist, but rescue operations have been hampered by the rains, flooding, mudslides and disrupted communications.
Japan is at high risk of heavy rain in early summer when wet and warm air from the East China Sea flows into a seasonal rain front above the country. In July 2018, more than 200 people, about half of them in Hiroshima, died from heavy rain and flooding in southwestern Japan.
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