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More Than a Dozen Presumed Dead in Japan Flooding

By Jan Wesner Childs

July 04 2020 09:50 AM EDT

weather.com

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More than a dozen people are presumed dead and several are missing after heavy rain and flooding slammed southern Japan Saturday, covering homes with water and leaving residents stranded on their rooftops awaiting rescue.

More than 75,000 residents in Kumamoto and Kagoshima prefectures on Japan's southwestern island of Kyushu were told to evacuate, The Associated Press reported.

Buildings were swept away by mudslides and trees uprooted.

“I smelled mud, and the whole area was vibrating with river water. I’ve never experienced anything like this,” a man in a shelter in Yatsushiro city, in western Kumamoto, told NHK.

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More than 4 inches of rain per hour fell on parts of Kumamoto Prefecture, according to NHK TV. Some areas received up to 20 inches of rain in the past 72 hours.

"The torrential rainfall this week was caused by a stationary, but normal frontal boundary known as the Mei-yu (or Baiu) front, which pulls moisture northeastward across eastern Asia, including Japan, from the Indian monsoon," weather.com meteorologist Jonathan Belles said Saturday morning. "This front occurs each June and July in southern Japan and is known to bring heavy rainfall and mudslides."

The Kuma River in the southern part of the prefecture overflowed and inundated parts of the town of Hitoyoshi. Aerial photos showed homes and buildings covered by muddy water. Emergency officials received more than 100 calls from people who need rescue, but many roads were inaccessible.

Local government officials said several homes were washed away.

Fourteen residents at an elderly care home in Kuma village were presumed dead after the facility was flooded, Kumamoto Gov. Ikuo Kabashima told reporters, according to the AP. NHK reported that the victims were found without vital signs. Floodwaters and mud rushed into the home, stranding some 60 residents. Three others had hypothermia, Kabashima said.

Two people buried under mudslides in Tsunagimachi district were pulled out without vital signs, according to the AP. A third person was still missing.

Six people were also missing in the flooded town of Ashikita, Kumamoto officials said.

The Japanese government is sending about 10,000 Self-Defense Force members to the region.

The Japan Meteorological Agency issued warnings for heavy rain and flooding, including a rare rainfall emergency issued Friday.

Belles said this year's iteration of the Mei-yu front has already brought extremely heavy rainfall, mudslides, flooding, and the world's third costliest weather disaster of 2020 so far to China.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.