TOKYO – The death toll from heavy rain and flooding in southern Japan this week has risen to 15, officials said Saturday, as rescue workers reached isolated villages where at least 14 others are missing and feared dead.
Heavy rain warnings are still in place for parts of the southern island of Kyushu on Saturday, days after Typhoon Nanmadol swept across Japan, triggering floods and mudslides that wrecked hundreds of homes, roads and rice terraces.
The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said Saturday that 12 dead have so far been found in Fukuoka prefecture and three others in neighboring Oita prefecture.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said 12,000 troops, firefighters and other rescuers continued searching for the missing, clearing debris off roads and delivering fresh water and food supplies for the displaced at a school gymnasium. They have reached most of the previously inaccessible villages, Suga said.
Nearly 1,000 residents were rescued over the past two days, but dozens are still believed to be stranded. The operation has been slowed by mudflows and floodwaters as the rain continued.
In the hardest-hit Asakura city in Fukuoka, the bodies of a woman, her daughter and a grandson were found late Friday on the first floor of their house that was crushed by a mudslide, Japan's public broadcaster NHK said.
Footage showed inundated rice fields and collapsed homes. Roads and bridges were damaged, covered with broken trees washed down from the mountainside. Hundreds of people in remote villages were being airlifted by military helicopters while soldiers waded through floodwater carrying elderly people on their backs.
Japan's royal family postponed the formal announcement of Princess Mako's engagement to a college classmate Saturday out of consideration for the suffering of people in the affected areas, palace officials said. A new date has yet to be decided.
Japan's Meteorological Agency said Fukuoka and Oita experienced unprecedented amounts of rain.
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