HEAVY RAIN IN southern Japan has triggered flooding and landslides, leaving at least two dead, more than a dozen missing and others stranded on rooftops waiting to be rescued.
More than 75,000 residents in the southern prefectures of Kumamoto and Kagoshima were asked to evacuate following torrential rain overnight.
The evacuation is not mandatory and it is not known how many actually fled.
NHK television footage showed large areas of Hitoyoshi town in Kumamoto inundated in muddy water that gushed out from the Kuma River. Many cars were submerged up to their windows.
Mudslides smashed into houses and floodwaters carried trunks from uprooted trees. Several people were seen standing on a convenience store roof as they waited for rescuers.
In the Tsunagimachi district, two of three people buried underneath mudslides were feared dead, Kumamoto prefectural crisis management official Takafumi Kobori said. Rescuers were still searching for the third person.
NHK said about 13 people were reported missing. Kumamoto officials said they were still assessing the extent of the damage.
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Flooding also cut off power and communication lines. About 8,000 homes in Kumamoto and neighbouring Kagoshima were without electricity, according to the Kyushu Electric Power Company.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set up a task force, vowing to do his utmost to rescue the missing. He said up to 10,000 defence troops were being mobilised for rescue operations.
The Japan Meteorological Agency earlier issued warnings of extraordinary rain in parts of Kumamoto, about 600 miles south west of Tokyo, but later downgraded them as the rainfall — estimated at four inches per hour — subsided.