Dozens of people have been killed and two million forced to flee their homes after record rains pounded southwest Japan, triggering widespread flooding and deadly landslides.
At least 75 people are dead and 40 have been reported missing or are unaccounted for, according to Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency.
Earlier, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that 85 people had died, and at least were 58 missing. Most of the deaths were reported in Hiroshima and Ehime Prefectures, though eight prefectures were impacted.
Images from Saka, a small town on the southern coast of Hiroshima Prefecture, show cars buried in mud.
Kazuhiko Ono, who owns a secondhand book store in Hiroshima city, was unable to return to his home and store when the rains first arrived. His wife and children took shelter in the second floor of their home, while the store filled up with water.
“I’m a secondhand book seller,” Ono said. “I’m so sad I lost many books, I can never find them anymore.”
The town of Kaita, on the outskirts of Hiroshima, was also heavily damaged by flooding and landslides.
“It was terrifying,” said Kaita resident Yuichi Tada. “I’ve never experienced it before. I’ve been living this town for almost 70 years, but it was first time to have such heavy rain.”
Further north, in Gifu Prefecture, the Tsubogawa River overflowed, flooding nearby roads and damaging houses.
“The record rainfalls in various parts of the country have caused rivers to burst their banks, and triggered large scale floods and landslides in several areas,” Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Sunday.
In Kurashiki near Okayama, soldiers were deployed to carry elderly residents from their homes into waiting dinghies.
Hundreds of homes have been destroyed or damaged.
“I went to my father’s family home but it was hopeless,” one man said. “We were hoping to find two people but still can’t find one.”
The Japan Meteorological Agency upgraded its alert system to the highest level in large areas of western Japan, while lifting the warning in other regions.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported about 364 millimeters (14.3 inches) of rain fell between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. in the city of Uwajima – approximately 1.5 times the average monthly rainfall for July.
In Sukumo City in Kochi prefecture, 263 millimeters (10.3 inches) of rain fell in two hours, NHK reported.
Suga warned that although the rain warnings had been lifted, residents should still watch for landslides. Those participating in cleanup efforts should be careful to avoid heat-related issues, because the next few days are expected to be hot and clear.
Government officials are warning people in affected areas they are at risk for landslides, flooding, wind gusts and other extreme weather conditions.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said 54,000 personnel had been mobilized for search-and-rescue efforts, NHK reported.