Death toll from flooding in Japan reaches 55, dozen missing

  • A man walks on heavily damaged road following a heavy rain in Kumamura, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan Monday, July 6, 2020. Rescue operations continued and rain threatened wider areas of the main island of Kyushu. (Koji Harada/Kyodo News via AP)

    A man walks on heavily damaged road following a heavy rain in Kumamura, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan Monday, July 6, 2020. Rescue operations continued and rain threatened wider areas of the main island of Kyushu. (Koji Harada/Kyodo News via AP) Associated Press

  • Japan Ground Self-Defense Force search missing persons at the site of a mudslide in Tsunagi town, Kumamoto prefecture, southwestern Japan, Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Floodwaters flowed down streets in southwestern Japanese towns hit by deadly rains that were expanding across the region Tuesday. (Kyodo News via AP)

    Japan Ground Self-Defense Force search missing persons at the site of a mudslide in Tsunagi town, Kumamoto prefecture, southwestern Japan, Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Floodwaters flowed down streets in southwestern Japanese towns hit by deadly rains that were expanding across the region Tuesday. (Kyodo News via AP) Associated Press

  • Japan Self Defense Force members rescue residents on a boat on a flooded road hit by heavy rain in Omuta, Fukuoka prefecture, southern Japan Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Rescue operations continued and rain threatened wider areas of the main island of Kyushu. (Juntaro Yokoyama/Kyodo News via AP)

    Japan Self Defense Force members rescue residents on a boat on a flooded road hit by heavy rain in Omuta, Fukuoka prefecture, southern Japan Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Rescue operations continued and rain threatened wider areas of the main island of Kyushu. (Juntaro Yokoyama/Kyodo News via AP) Associated Press

  • Debris is scattered at a residential area hit by heavy rain in Kumamura, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Rescue operations continued and rain threatened wider areas of the main island of Kyushu. (Kota Endo/Kyodo News via AP)

    Debris is scattered at a residential area hit by heavy rain in Kumamura, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Rescue operations continued and rain threatened wider areas of the main island of Kyushu. (Kota Endo/Kyodo News via AP) Associated Press

  • Debris are seen on a residential area hit by heavy rain in Kumamura, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Rescue operations continued and rain threatened wider areas of the main island of Kyushu. (Kota Endo/Kyodo News via AP)

    Debris are seen on a residential area hit by heavy rain in Kumamura, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Rescue operations continued and rain threatened wider areas of the main island of Kyushu. (Kota Endo/Kyodo News via AP) Associated Press

  • Japan Self Defense Force members rescue residents on a rubber boat on a flooded road hit by heavy rain in Omuta, Fukuoka prefecture, southern Japan Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Rescue operations continued and rain threatened wider areas of the main island of Kyushu. (Juntaro Yokoyama/Kyodo News via AP)

    Japan Self Defense Force members rescue residents on a rubber boat on a flooded road hit by heavy rain in Omuta, Fukuoka prefecture, southern Japan Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Rescue operations continued and rain threatened wider areas of the main island of Kyushu. (Juntaro Yokoyama/Kyodo News via AP) Associated Press

  • Police officers continue a search operation for missing persons at the site of a mudslide in Tsunagi town, Kumamoto prefecture, southwestern Japan, Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Floodwaters flowed down streets in southwestern Japanese towns hit by deadly rains that were expanding across the region Tuesday. (Koji Harada/Kyodo News via AP)

    Police officers continue a search operation for missing persons at the site of a mudslide in Tsunagi town, Kumamoto prefecture, southwestern Japan, Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Floodwaters flowed down streets in southwestern Japanese towns hit by deadly rains that were expanding across the region Tuesday. (Koji Harada/Kyodo News via AP) Associated Press

  • The lobby of a hot-spring hotel is covered with mud after flooding caused by heavy rain in Hita city, Oita prefecture, southwestern Japan, Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Floodwaters flowed down streets in southwestern Japanese towns hit by deadly rains that were expanding across the region Tuesday. (Miyuki Saito/Kyodo News via AP)

    The lobby of a hot-spring hotel is covered with mud after flooding caused by heavy rain in Hita city, Oita prefecture, southwestern Japan, Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Floodwaters flowed down streets in southwestern Japanese towns hit by deadly rains that were expanding across the region Tuesday. (Miyuki Saito/Kyodo News via AP) Associated Press

 
 
Updated 7/7/2020 9:51 AM

TOKYO -- Soldiers used boats to rescue residents as floodwaters flowed down streets in southern Japanese towns hit by heavy rains that were expanding across the region on Tuesday. At least 55 people have died and a dozen remain missing.

Pounding rain since late Friday in the southern region of Kyushu has triggered widespread flooding. More rain was predicted in Kyushu and the western half of Japan's main island of Honshu as the rain front moved east.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In Fukuoka, on the northern part of Kyushu, soldiers waded through knee-high water pulling a boat carrying a mother, her 2-month-old baby and two other residents.

'Good job!" one of the soldiers said as he held the baby up to his chest while the mother got off the boat, Asahi video showed. Several children wearing orange life vests over their wet T-shirts arrived on another boat.

An older woman told public broadcaster NHK that she started walking down the road to evacuate, but floodwater rose quickly to her neck. Another woman said, 'I was almost washed away and had to grab a electrical pole.'

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said 49 victims were from riverside towns in Kumamoto prefecture. Another victim was a woman in her 80s found inside her flooded home in another prefecture.

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About 3 million residents were advised to evacuate across Kyushu, Japan's third-largest island.

Tens of thousands of army troops, police and other rescue workers mobilized from around the country worked their way through mud and debris in the hardest-hit riverside towns along the Kuma River. Rescue operations have been hampered by the floodwater and continuing harsh weather.

Japan is at high risk of heavy rain in early summer when wet and warm air from the East China Sea flows into a seasonal rain front above the country. In July 2018, more than 200 people, about half of them in Hiroshima, died from heavy rain and flooding in southwestern Japan.

In Kuma village in Kumamoto prefecture, dozens of residents took shelter under a roofed structure in a park with no walls or floor. They sat on blue tarps spread on the dirt ground, with no partitions. The village office's electricity and communications had been cut.

Among the fatalities were 14 residents of a nursing home next to the Kuma River, known as the 'raging river' because it is joined by another river just upstream and is prone to flooding. Its embankment collapsed, letting water gush into the nursing home.

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

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