TOKYO – More than 220,000 people in central Japan were evacuated on Wednesday as torrential rains hit the area after leaving at least 58 dead in the country’s southwest.
Most of the central regions have been placed under a severe weather alert due to the storms and flooding, which have seen the worst rainfall recorded in the country for several decades.
The Gifu and Nagano prefectures have been the most affected by the downpours, which has led authorities to issue the highest weather warning and relocate around 220,000 residents to safety.
More than 800 millimeters of rain has fallen in the area since the weekend, which has caused rivers to overflow, landslides and damage to numerous homes, roads and bridges.
Search and rescue efforts for survivors continued on the southern island of Kyushu, which was the hardest hit by the storm over the weekend.
At least 58 people have died and another 17 remain missing in the area, according to the latest data compiled by Japanese state broadcaster NHK.
Among the fatalities were 14 residents of a nursing home who died when the nearby Kuma River flooded the building.
Rainfall of up to 100 millimeters per hour and accumulated 800 millimeters have been recorded in this region, levels that have never been observed since records exist.
Members of Japan’s military forces joined where rainfall has caused river overflows and floods in a dozen towns, in addition to landslides and blockades of roads.
Recovery operations have been hampered by precautions to avoid possible coronavirus infections, which have led to halving the capacity of temporary accommodation such as gyms and other public facilities and to enabling thermometers and disinfecting gels for evacuees.
Japanese authorities plan to declare the region has been affected by a serious natural disaster, which will allow it to receive special economic aid and urgent financing to repair the damage, government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference on Wednesday.
The Japanese Meteorological Agency has forecast the weather front causing the storms will remain in the southwest for the next few days, which could see some of the areas worst affected by flooding hit again by heavy rainfall.