Eighteen people have been confirmed dead, and at least 16 others may have also lost their lives in the flood-ravaged southwestern Japan prefecture of Kumamoto, the prefectural government said, as rescue operations continued on Sunday.
Rescuers struggled to reach hard-hit areas along the Kuma River, which broke its banks at several locations after torrential rain struck the area early Saturday, causing massive flooding.
At least 14 people were missing, and some residents in the prefecture’s central and southern parts, including in the cities of Yatsushiro and Hitoyoshi, became isolated after floods and mudslides cut off roads and swept away buildings.
In the village of Kuma, about 50 people were rescued from the flood-hit Senjuen nursing home Sunday, the local government said. A day earlier, 14 others were found showing no vital signs but have yet to be officially declared as fatalities.
Ground Self-Defense Force personnel have been dispatched to the region as part of relief efforts. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said around 10,000 SDF personnel will be mobilized.
A rain front began bringing downpours to the region between late Friday and early Saturday. The Japan Meteorological Agency issued an evacuation order for a total of 203,200 residents in Kumamoto and neighboring Kagoshima Prefecture, where more than 100 shelters were set up.
Some 5,880 homes in Kumamoto and Kagoshima were without power as of Sunday morning, according to Kyushu Electric Power Co.