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105 dead, 87 missing in floods and landslides across western Japan


OSAKA -- As many as 105 people in 13 prefectures were dead and 87 others were missing as of 12:30 p.m. on July 9 due to mudslides and floods caused by torrential rains in a wide area of western Japan, according to local authorities. Rescue workers continue efforts to locate people whose whereabouts are unknown, while at least some 23,000 people had evacuated due to heavy downpours and related natural disasters as of the night of July 8.

Emergency and weather officials warn of the possibility of additional damage caused by flooding and mudslides, although all emergency warnings issued from July 6 through 8 in 11 prefectures by the Japan Meteorological Agency alerting the significant likelihood of catastrophic disasters had been lifted as of the night of July 8.

Hiroshima Prefecture suffered the largest number of deaths with 43 people killed, followed by Ehime Prefecture on the main western island of Shikoku with 23 fatalities. Okayama Prefecture had 22 residents killed, while Kyoto Prefecture had four fatalities and Yamaguchi Prefecture three. The prefectures of Hyogo, Fukuoka and Kagoshima each lost two people.

According to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, it is the first time in 35 years in Japan that more than 100 people have been killed by torrential rains over such a short period of time. In July 1983, 112 people were killed following heavy downpours in Shimane and other prefectures.

The 48 missing people concentrated in Hiroshima Prefecture are the target of search and rescue operations. The number of missing people in Okayama Prefecture was 30, while the whereabouts of three people in Ehime Prefecture was unknown.

In the Mabicho area of the city of Kurashiki in the western prefecture of Okayama, about 12 square kilometers or 27 percent of land area was submerged by water as the Odagawa River flooded when its banks were breached. So far, the bodies of 17 people, including elderly residents, have been recovered from houses and elsewhere in the area, and an additional 24 people remain missing. As of the morning of July 9, rescue workers and Self-Defense Force troops saved as many as 2,400 residents who had been trapped in the flooded area. As many as 300 patients and residents were left at a local hospital but all of them were brought to safety.

Flood water measuring 24 million cubic meters -- enough to fill 19 Tokyo Dome baseball stadiums in the center of the national capital -- is covering the district. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has deployed pump trucks and started to drain the water, but it is estimated to take for at least two weeks to complete drainage operations.

In the city of Hiroshima, one of the hardest hit areas, search and rescue operations continued on July 9, including the Umego housing complex in Aki Ward where mudslides devastated many of the buildings. In the town of Kumano in Hiroshima Prefecture, at least one person was confirmed dead while 12 were missing.

The JMA also issued emergency warnings for exceptionally torrential rains in the prefectures of Ehime and Kochi on the western main island of Shikoku. In the city of Uwajima in Ehime, many landslides killed at least 10 people including an elementary school boy, and one resident is missing.

Damage was also heavy on the southern main island of Kyushu. In the city of Kitakyushu's Moji Ward in the northern part of the island, a mudslide swept away the house of an elderly couple, and the 68-year-old husband was confirmed killed on July 8, and a woman who appeared to be his wife was found with cardio-pneumonic arrest on the morning of July 9. In Kagoshima in southern Kyushu, an elderly couple was found dead near a house hit by a landslide.

In the city of Seki in the central Japan prefecture of Shiga, a man, 60, was found deceased inside a light wagon car toppled inside a drainage canal.

According to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, housing damage caused by the recent torrential rains and related natural disasters was reported in 31 prefectures as of 6:30 a.m. on July 9. Some 38 houses were completely destroyed, while 21 housing units were partially damaged. As many as 1,930 houses were flooded.

(Japanese original by Kazushi Machidori, Himeji Bureau, Lee Yong-ho, Fukuyama Bureau and Aoi Hanazawa, Matsuyama Bureau)

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