World

At least 20 dead in Japan as rain triggers floods, mudslides

TOKYO: At least 20 people are dead after torrential rain in Japan triggered floods and mudslides on Saturday, local media said as rescue workers sifted through debris in search of more than a dozen missing.

The floods in the Kumamoto region on the south-western island of Kyushu have destroyed houses, swept away vehicles and caused bridges to collapse, leaving many towns submerged and communities cut off.

More than 200,000 people have been ordered to evacuate as the authorities urge those in emergency shelters to wash their hands and maintain a social distance to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

"We will do our utmost to prevent the spread of the infection and make lives of those who had to flee their home as comfortable as possible," Disaster Management Minister Ryota Takeda said after visiting a gymnasium in Hitoyoshi city where 600 residents are sheltering.

In addition to the 20 dead, national broadcaster NHK said another 20 were in a state of "cardio-respiratory arrest", a term often used in Japan before a doctor officially certifies death.

They include 14 residents of a nursing home which was flooded after a nearby river broke its banks on Saturday.

At least 14 are still missing.

Communities along the Kuma River, which passes through Hitoyoshi, have been hit hard by the massive flooding.

Although the rain had eased in Kumamoto by yesterday morning, collapsed bridges and blocked roads due to flooding and mudslides have left many isolated in the region.

Rescue workers used boats and helicopters to reach them.

More rain was expected yesterday evening. - AFP

WORLD