Tokyo, July 4 (efe-epa).- At least 15 people died on Saturday and nine were missing in Japan following heavy rains that have forced evacuation of tens of thousands of residents in the southwestern part of the country, according to officials.
Kumamoto governor Ikuo Kabashima, cited by public broadcaster NHK, said 14 of the total casualties were residents of an old age home that got inundated following the flooding of the Kuma river.
Officially, the Japanese authorities said that these 14 people were found with cardiorespiratory arrest, a term used in Japan until a person is confirmed dead.
Kyodo news agency also reported that 15 people had gone missing, according to provisional figures.
These including the 14 residents of the old age home. The report, however, did not specify the details of the remaining victim.
According to public broadcaster NHK, the worst-affected areas include16 municipalities in the Kumamoto prefecture and another four in the Kagoshima prefecture.
Japan Meteorological Agency issued the highest level of emergency alert for both prefectures, warning of landslides and overflowing rivers and streams.
“A heavy rain emergency warning has been issued for municipalities in Kumamoto and Kagoshima prefectures. Cities and towns that have issued emergency warnings are experiencing unprecedented heavy rainfall,” weatherman Nakamoto Yoshihisa said.
“It’s highly likely that some kind of disaster has already occurred in landslide disaster caution zones and flood forecast zones. The situation has reached the alert level 5. We have to do our best to protect our lives.”
The weather department also asked inhabitants of the worst-affected areas to evacuate their homes and go to designated safe places.
The downpour caused over 100 millimeters of rain an hour in parts of Kumamoto Prefecture with weather officials calling on residents to take steps to ensure their safety.
The Kuma River, which runs through southern Kumamoto, has been flooded.
NHK reported that a bridge was washed away. Some 100 people who live nearby were stranded.
The authorities issued a landslide alert for some areas in Kyushu, as well as parts of the Shikoku island.
Weather officials have also warned of flooding in low-lying areas, overflowing rivers, as well as lightning strikes and sudden wind gusts.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held an emergency meeting to analyze the impact of the torrential rains expected to continue over the weekend. EFE-EPA