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21 confirmed dead due to heavy rain in southwest Japan

KUMAMOTO (The Japan News/ANN) -- A total of 21 deaths were confirmed Sunday evening in Kumamoto Prefecture, which has been hit by record-level rainfall.

Rescuers search the site where a landslide occurred in Ashikita, Kumamoto Prefecture, on Saturday afternoon.    -Photo the Yomiuri Shimbun

The Kumamoto prefectural government confirmed 18 of the deaths as of 2 pm Sunday, with nine from the city of Hitoyoshi, eight from the town of Ashikita and one from the town of Tsunagi. Later in the day, three deaths were also confirmed by the Yatsushiro city government.
The prefectural government confirmed an additional 16 people were in cardiopulmonary arrest. The whereabouts of 14 others remain unknown.
The flooding of the Kuma River had isolated 50 people in a special nursing home for the elderly called Senjuen in the neighboring of village of Kuma. The Kumamoto prefectural government announced Sunday that all the people were rescued and sent to medical institutions.
A landslide destroyed a house in Ashikita — a community surrounded by mountains near the Yatsushiro Sea — on Saturday morning.
“The moment I heard a booming roar, I knew it [the mountainside behind the house] would collapse,” said the couple’s 40-year-old third daughter, who lives with them.
The woman woke up her parents early in the morning because she was worried about the heavy rain. She had been watching weather information on TV on the second floor, while her parents were on the first floor, when the landslide hit, burying the first floor.
She called out her parents’ names in the house, but there was no answer. The woman was rescued by firefighters, but her parents were still missing on Sunday morning.
“I should have taken them upstairs with me. I want them to be alive,” she said in tears.
Another landslide occurred in Ashikita’s Tagawa district, swallowing houses. Rescuers were unable to get in contact with three people.
A 39-year-old company employee from the town of Kikuyo in the prefecture rushed to the scene. “My mother, brother and grandmother are in the house. I just want them to be safe,” he said.At Aichi Park in Yatsushiro, Kumamoto Prefecture, Self-Defense Force helicopters landed one after another. Rescued residents were assisted by firefighters to be sent to hospitals and other places. Some were carried on stretchers, while others were seen walking barefoot.
Police, firefighters and the SDF are engaged in rescue operations in many parts of the prefecture. However, the full extent of the damage has not been determined because roads are blocked. Some areas, including the village of Kuma, where the river sharply narrows, are located among mountains.
In Kuma, 10 people found shelter at Sangaura, a facility in a defunct primary school furnished to offer the experience of rural life. According to the facility’s manager, most of the evacuees are elderly, as their homes have been flooded. The facility has been without electricity and the phone connection is cut. There are six rooms on the second floor equipped for sleeping, but all the evacuees are staying in a hall measuring about 50 tatami mats on the first floor.
Flooding at nursing home
Also in Kuma, a 72-year-old village assembly member who helped residents at Senjuen evacuate described flooding at the facility as “like a tsunami.”
The assemblyman lives near Senjuen and is a volunteer to assist residents in times of disaster. As the rain intensified early Saturday morning, he became worried and went to the facility. He and facility staff members helped residents on the first floor move to the second as flood water poured in.
“There was so much water that it looked like a tsunami of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Various things were floating, and I was holding on to something and struggling. There was nothing I could do,” the man recalled.
At the SDF’s request, an owner of a rafting company in Hitoyoshi in the prefecture ferried rescued residents on a boat to hand them over to firefighters. Other rafting companies cooperated to transport about 20 people in total.

(Latest Update
July 7
, 2020

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