Heavy rains flood Japan, over a dozen presumed dead

Some 14 people feared dead at flooded nursing home, says local governor as country faces record rain and mudslides.

    Fourteen people are feared dead after a nursing home was flooded in western Japan as record heavy rains hit the region, a local governor said.

    The victims were found "in cardio-respiratory arrest" at the facility for elderly people that was inundated after a nearby river broke its banks, governor Ikuo Kabashima from the western region of Kumamoto told reporters.

    Officials said they were still sorting out the numbers and could not confirm the toll.

    Another 10 were presumed missing and dozens were stranded on rooftops waiting to be rescued in southern Japan.

    More than 75,000 residents in the southern prefectures of Kumamoto and Kagoshima were asked to evacuate following pounding rains overnight. The evacuation is not mandatory and it was not known how many actually fled.

    "I smelled mud, and the whole area was vibrating with river water. I have never experienced anything like this," a man in a shelter in Yatsushiro city in western Kumamoto told NHK TV. He said he fled early fearing a disaster.

    An aerial view shows flooded Kuma River caused by heavy rain at a residential area in Hitoyoshi, Japan
    An aerial view shows flooded Kuma River caused by heavy rain at a residential area in Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan [Reuters]

    NHK footage showed large areas of Hitoyoshi town in Kumamoto inundated in muddy waters that gushed out from the Kuma River. Many cars were submerged up to their windows.

    Mudslides smashed into houses and floodwaters carried trunks from uprooted trees. Several people were standing atop a convenience store as they waited for rescuers.

    In Tsunagimachi district, two of three people buried underneath mudslides were pulled out without vital signs, Kumamoto prefectural crisis management official Takafumi Kobori said.

    Rescuers were still searching for the third person.

    In another badly flooded town, Ashikita, six people were unaccounted for and a seventh was seriously injured, Kumamoto officials said.

    In the mountainous village of Kuma, residents stranded at their homes were being airlifted by a rescue helicopter. In Hitoyoshi city, rescuers transported some residents in a boat.

    Flooding also cut off power and communication lines. About 8,000 homes in Kumamoto and neighboring Kagoshima were without electricity, according to the Kyushu Electric Power Co.

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set up a task force and said up to 10,000 troops were being mobilised for rescue operations.

    The Japan Meteorological Agency earlier issued warnings of extraordinary rain in parts of Kumamoto, which is about 1,000km (600 miles) southwest of Tokyo. It later downgraded them as the rainfall - estimated at 100mm (4 inches) an hour - subsided.

    SOURCE: News agencies