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One dead as Japan warns of 'heaviest rain ever' in southwest

By Agence France-Presse Published Jul 10, 2023 9:51 am

One person is dead and three missing in landslides in southwestern Japan, authorities said Monday, July 10, as the country's weather agency warned of the "heaviest rain ever" in the region.

A 77-year-old woman was confirmed dead in a landslide that entered her home overnight in rural Fukuoka, the local fire department told AFP.

Her husband was recovered conscious and taken to hospital.

Three people were also missing after a landslide in Karatsu City, in Saga prefecture, which neighbors Fukuoka, local authorities there said.

The Japan Meteorological Agency urged people to take shelter as the heavy downpours risked flooding and landslides across the Fukuoka and Oita regions.

"A special heavy rain warning has been issued for municipalities in Fukuoka Prefecture. This is the heaviest rain ever experienced" by the region, Satoshi Sugimoto of the JMA's forecast division told reporters.

"There is a very high possibility that some kind of disaster has already occurred... The situation is such that lives are in danger and safety must be secured," he added.

Non-compulsory evacuation orders were issued to parts of Fukuoka, Oita, and neighboring prefectures, which were opening shelters to accommodate those leaving their homes.

The prime minister's office said a task force had been established to coordinate a response to the rains.

The downpour forced the stoppage of bullet train service between western Hiroshima and Fukuoka, operator JR West said.

Japan is currently in its annual rainy season, which often brings heavy downpours, and sometimes results in flooding and landslides, as well as casualties.

Scientists say climate change is intensifying the risk of heavy rain in Japan and elsewhere because a warmer atmosphere holds more water.

In 2021, rain triggered a devastating landslide in the central resort town of Atami that killed 27 people.

And in 2018, floods and landslides killed more than 200 people in western Japan during the rainy season. (AFP)