Heavy rain has hit southwestern Japan, mainly on the southernmost island of Kyushu. At least nineteen people have died and some eight people are missing, according to police and firefighters.
Media updates today state that 19 are dead and 8 persons are still missing.Most of those who have died in the heavy rainfall and mudslides were elderly people who could not manage to leave their homes on their own.
Local broadcaster, NHK has reported that in Taketa City, Oita, a man in his 70's drowned in a swollen river. Another man in his 80's is still missing.
A Kumamoto prefecture spokesman told AFP, "Unfortunately, we believe the numbers [of dead and missing] will rise as we get more and more information from the field."
According to the Japanese Meteorological Agency, Kumamoto and neighboring Oila prefectures saw "the heaviest rain that [the region] has ever experienced" as hourly rainfalls of 100 millimeters were recorded in the area.
Reports are that the town of Aso in Kumamoto received a record 500 millimeters of rain. In neighboring Minami-Aso, severe landslides have washed away houses. Police report nine dead in that area.
In Kumamoto, more than 17,000 households have been evacuated, and a further 5,000 people have been advised to leave the neighboring area.
Authorities in Oita have ordered the evacuation of nearly 15,000 people and a further 10,000 have been advised to leave.
News reports show images of ruined houses, roads washed away and cars turned upside down. Other photos show cars being dragged into raging rivers, and houses destroyed by landslides caused by the torrential rain.
Rescue workers and defense troops have been sent to the region to help. Some residents trapped in inundated areas have been airlifted by helicopters.
By noon today, local time, the downpour had weakened sufficiently for rescuers to start clean up operations. However, an official in Kumamoto official has warned that more rain could possibly hit the region.
“We are increasing our alert level for rivers overflowing," he said.
The Japanese Meteorological Agency says that as much as 50 centimeters (20 inches) of rain fell overnight, and it predicts up to 20 centimeters (8 inches) of rainfall through Friday.
Japan’s Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, has promised to provide the necessary help to all affected residents.
In a legislative session he said, "I have heard that this is a record for heavy rainfall. We will take effective measures."