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Heavy rains forecast for quake-stricken Kumamoto Pref.; mudslides feared

People cover the roof of a quake-damaged house with a tarp in Mashiki, Kumamoto Prefecture, in this picture taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter on April 15, 2016. (Mainichi)

Heavy rains are forecast for Kumamoto Prefecture from the night of April 16 through to the follow day, raising the risk of mudslides in the already disaster-stricken area.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) predicts as much as 100 to 150 millimeters of precipitation in some areas of Kumamoto Prefecture for the 24-hour period starting from 6 p.m. on April 16. Earthquakes have loosened the ground in some areas, raising the risk of mudslides.

According to the JMA's Kumamoto local meteorological observatory, "even if there isn't heavy rain, landslides could still easily occur" in the mountainous area in the southern part of the town of Mashiki, which suffered heavy earthquake damage. Prolonged showers are unlikely, but there could be mudflows in this mountainous area if rainclouds persist.

The JMA says that it has lowered its standard for issuing mudslide advisories and warnings for the quake-hit areas. A JMA official stated, "We want people to pay attention to weather reports, use tarps to cover up belongings at their (damaged) houses that they don't want to get wet, and otherwise take early measures against the rain."

Kenji Fujisawa, the 52-year-old director of the disaster-prevention organization "Kyushu Bosai Partners" providing support in the quake-hit areas, says, "For people in areas where there is a risk of mudslides or people who are in damaged homes, I hope they will evacuate quickly, before the rain falls, instead of staying in their houses."

According to Fujisawa, after the first earthquake people could be seen staying outdoors, but now governments are guiding them to indoor locations. There are disaster-affected residents who are currently living in their cars, and Fujisawa advised these people, "To avoid economy-class syndrome (deep-vein thrombosis caused by prolonged immobility) and dehydration, I would like them to frequently move their bodies, drink fluids, and look after themselves and other residents."

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