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Death toll from Kyushu rains hits 22 as searches, evacuations continue

The Hakiwakaichi district of Asakura, Fukuoka Prefecture, where an evacuation order was issued, is seen on July 10, 2017. (Mainichi)

ASAKURA, Fukuoka -- Emergency responders discovered three victims in this disaster-hit city in cardiopulmonary arrest on July 10, as the search for the missing and other operations to help residents continue after heavy rains triggered flooding and landslides in northern Kyushu.

According to Fukuoka Prefectural Police, three people were discovered in mudslide on July 10. Of the three, a male victim was later pronounced dead, bringing the total number of confirmed dead to 22 as of the evening of July 10.

In addition, as there is still a high risk of landslides from the mountains surrounding Asakura, a new evacuation order covering 316 people in 115 households in the city's Haki district was issued in the afternoon of July 9. This raised the total number of evacuees from heavily-hit areas as of noon on July 10 to 1,027 in Asakura and 313 in Toho, Fukuoka Prefecture, and 384 in Hita, Oita Prefecture, for a total of 1,724 people.

While the seasonal rain front has reportedly moved north to the Korean Peninsula, according to the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) there is still a chance of concentrated heavy rain in northern Kyushu due to the arrival of a warm, wet air mass. The JMA warns of the chance for further damage from landslides due to the softening of the ground from torrential rainfall thus far.

Adding to the landslide dangers, the predicted high for Hita, Oita Prefecture, and Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture, on July 10 was 32 degrees Celsius, continuing the trend of intense summer heat in the affected regions. The Hitakusu area fire department reported taking one man in an evacuation center in Hita to hospital due to suspected heatstroke on July 9.

Meanwhile, on July 10 Kyushu Railway Co. began a bus service to aid residents in some areas along the currently suspended Kyudai Main Line including between Ukiha Station in Fukuoka Prefecture and Hita Station, Oita Prefecture, where an iron bridge spanning a river was washed away by floodwaters. A similar service for the Hitahikosan Line between Soeda and Yoake stations, where the tracks have been covered by debris and mud, is not being considered because road conditions in that area cannot be confirmed.

West Nippon Expressway Co. has also extended the closure of the Oita Expressway between the Haki and Asakura interchanges due to fears of further landslides.

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