Japan floods leave up to 34 dead, many at nursing homes


TOKYO (AP) — Deep floodwaters and the risk of more mudslides that left at least 34 people confirmed or presumed dead hampered search and rescue operations Sunday in southern Japan, including at elderly home facilities where more than a dozen died and scores were still stranded.

Helicopters and boats rescued more people from their homes in the Kumamoto region. More than 40,000 defense troops, the coast guard and fire brigades were taking part in the operation.

Large areas along the Kuma River were swallowed by floodwaters, with many houses, buildings and vehicles submerged almost up to their roofs. Mudslides smashed into houses, sending people atop rooftops waving at rescuers.

At a flooded elderly care home in Kuma Village, where 14 residents were presumed dead after rescuers reached them on Saturday, rescue continued Sunday for the dozens of remaining residents and caregivers.

Sixty-five residents and about 30 caregivers were trapped at the riverside care facility Senjuen when floodwaters and mud gushed in. All remaining 51 residents, including three who had hypothermia, had been rescued by boats and taken to hospitals for treatment by Sunday afternoon, officials said.

Shigemitsu Sakoda, a local rafting company operator who joined defense troops in the rescue effort at the nursing home, said floodwaters were still high on the first floor when they arrived at the scene on rafts. “So we smashed windows with a hammer to get in,” he told Japanese broadcaster NHK. Soldiers went up to the roof to rescue survivors who were able to go upstairs while the waters rose, he said.

“Unfortunately, some of the residents could not make it to the second floor” Sakoda said.

Overall, 18 people were confirmed dead, while 16 others, including those at the nursing home, were presumed dead. Fourteen others were still missing as of Sunday afternoon. Dozens of others were still trapped in inundated areas waiting to be rescued, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

In Hitoyoshi City, the deluge poured into houses near the main train station. "The water rose to the second floor so fast and I just couldn’t stop shivering,” a 55-year-old woman who was visiting her relatives told the Asahi newspaper.

She and her relatives ran upstairs, swam out of a window and eventually took refuge on the roof to wait for their rescue.

As floods eased in parts of Kumamoto on Sunday, vending machines and cars lay scattered on mud-coated streets. Some people were cleaning their homes, taking out damaged furniture and rinsing off mud.

More than 200,000 residents in Kumamoto prefecture were urged to evacuate following pounding rains on Friday evening and into Saturday. But the evacuation was not mandatory and many people opted to stay home because of concerns over catching the coronavirus, even though officials say shelters are adequately equipped with partitions and other safety measures.

Flooding also cut off power and communication lines, further delaying the search and rescue. Nearly 6,000 homes in Kumamoto were still without electricity Sunday, according to the Kyushu Electric Power Co.

The rainfall that exceeded 100 millimeters (4 inches) per hour has since subsided, but the Japan Meteorological Agency kept mudslide warnings in place across Kumamoto. Prefectural officials said evacuation advisories were still in place due to more rain in the forecast.


Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

More From

  • Egypt allows Gazans to leave strip for first time in months

    Egypt on Tuesday reopened Gaza’s main passenger crossing point for the first time in months for thousands of Palestinians who have been stranded on both sides of the border due to the coronavirus crisis. Gaza residents holding Egyptian passports, foreign passports and patients seeking treatment abroad were to leave through the Rafah crossing point during its three-day opening, the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza said. Palestinians stranded in Egypt and abroad will be allowed to return home, the ministry added.

  • Scottish season in jeopardy as player breaches virus rules

    Scottish soccer was in danger of being halted by the country's government after a Celtic player breached coronavirus rules by taking a secret trip to Spain and failing to self-isolate on his return. The Scottish champions issued on Tuesday an apology and a condemnation of the actions of left back Boli Bolingoli, who played in a 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock in the league on Sunday despite only recently returning from Spain without quarantining. It led to Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warning that Scottish soccer's privileges to play during the safety restrictions would be at risk if a similar situation arose.

  • Millennial Money: How we renegotiated our bills to cut costs

    It’s a good idea to call up your service providers and subscription services annually to negotiate a better rate, ask about new promotions or cancel unnecessary bills. This is a powerful tool to save money. First, review all of your recurring payments by identifying charges on your credit card and bank account.

  • Jailed Zimbabwean journalist is denied rights, say lawyers

    Lawyers for a jailed Zimbabwean journalist have asked a court to force prison authorities to stop the “blatant and malicious stripping away” of his rights, including lack of access to appropriate food and warm clothing. The efforts to improve jail conditions for Hopewell Chin'ono come as South African envoys are in Zimbabwe to investigate reports of widespread arrests and human rights abuses. Opposition politician Jacod Ngarivhume was also arrested at the same time for allegedly organizing the anti-government demonstrations, which were foiled by police and military on July 31.