TOKYO – Troops worked Thursday to rescue hundreds of people stranded by flooding in southern Japan. At least two people were found dead and nearly 20 were still unaccounted for in flooding that wrecked homes, roads and rice terraces.
Heavy rain warnings were in effect for much of the southern main island of Kyushu after Typhoon Nanmadol swept across Japan earlier in the week.
Authorities in Fukuoka on Kyushu said six people were injured, two of them seriously. One man was found dead after he was covered by a mudslide. Four others were missing and feared dead in the city after being swept away by floodwaters or buried underneath mudslides.
In neighboring Oita prefecture, where rivers also overflowed, a 43-year-old man dug up from a mudslide was pronounced dead, according to the Oita prefecture. Public broadcaster NHK said he was a rescue worker.
Four people were missing in Fukuoka, while 15 others were still unaccounted for in neighboring Oita, according to prefectural disaster management websites.
Hundreds of people were trapped in areas by the floodwater, Kyodo News reported.
In one of the worst-hit towns, Asakura in Fukuoka, a man managed a narrow escape when a landslide crushed his home on a steep mountain slope, NHK said.
"I heard smashing and banging in the house, windows shattering, then floodwater gushed into the house, furniture floating around," said Tsunemichi Motomatsu, who runs a liquor store with his wife.
"We struggled for life and somehow got out. Now I feel it's a miracle both of us are still alive," Motomatsu told NHK, pointing to his house, collapsed and half-buried in the mud.
Television footage showed rice fields and homes flooded after a river overflowed its banks, dragging vehicles into the riverbed and destroying dozens of buildings as well as roads and bridges. Soldiers waded gingerly through floodwaters, carrying an elderly man to safety and evacuating families using inflatable boats.
Many trees washed down from mountains were floating in flooded fields or blocking roads. Homes were without electricity, train operations were suspended and parts of highways closed. Classes at dozens of schools, including those used as shelters, were canceled Thursday.
Nearly 600,000 people were ordered or advised to evacuate in Fukuoka, but only a fraction of them did, in part because the heavy rain worsened during the night. Only about 1,800 people had sought refuge in schools and other public facilities as of early Thursday, according to the prefecture's disaster management website. In Oita, more than 270,000 people were subject to evacuation.
Japan's Meteorological Agency said Fukuoka and Oita were experiencing unprecedented amounts of rain.
Associated Press writers Elaine Kurtenbach and Sherry Zheng contributed to this report.