Japan's Meteorological Agency (JMA) issued a dire warning for flooding and landslides for two prefectures in southwestern portions of Japan as an unprecedented deluge unfolded Friday into Saturday.
Approximately 203,200 people in the hard-hit prefectures of Kumamoto and Kagoshima are under evacuation orders, with around 126,500 people being told to evacuate in Yatsushiro City alone, according to Kyodo News.
The Kuma River, which flows through the Kumamoto prefecture has risen well above its banks, washing away at least one bridge and cutting off citizens from rescue crews.
As of Saturday night, local time, at least one person was confirmed dead due to the floodwaters. Fifteen more are feared dead, while another nine are still missing. Of the 15 presumed dead, 14 were at a nursing home along the river that overflowed, reported Kyodo News.
On Sunday night, local time, officials announced that 18 people have been confirmed dead as rescue operations continued.
In response to the flooding, the JMA issued its highest grade of warning for flooding and landslides across the two prefectures. According to the agency, this is the first time these two areas have been placed under these warnings.
The warnings that were issued cover the Kumamoto cities of Amakusa, Yatsushiro and Hitoyoshi, and parts of Kagoshima, including the cities of Isa and Akune.
According to rain gauge data in the vicinity of the heaviest rainfall, reports of 16 to 18 inches (407 to 472 millimeters) of rain fell in the area between Friday afternoon and midday Saturday, local time.
As a result, numerous accounts of landslides and major river flooding have been reported in these areas.
Government officials have reported that some 10,000 members of the Self-Defense Force are being deployed to the area to assist with ongoing rescues and flood relief efforts.
Unfortunately, the storm system responsible for the heavy rainfall will continue to bring a threat across many of the same areas across Japan into Tuesday.
"Moisture will continue to stream into southwestern Japan through at least early week, leading to daily rounds of rain and thunderstorms, some of which can be heavy. This can exacerbate any ongoing flooding problems and perhaps create new ones, while also severely slowing rescue and recovery efforts," AccuWeather Meteorologist Renee Duff explained.
Citizens and those assisting with ongoing relief efforts will need to remain on alert as the threat of additional rainfall which could trigger flooding and landslide concerns persists.
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