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Record-breaking rainfall hits southwestern Japan, leaving at least 5 people dead and 3 missing

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Severe rainstorms resulted in destructive mudslides and flooding in Japan’s southwestern region on July 10, 2023, leading to at least five fatalities and leaving three people missing. With record-breaking rainfall, over 420 000 people were under the highest level of evacuation warning by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).

The JMA issued its highest rain alert level for the first time this year for Fukuoka and Oita prefectures. This warning strongly urges residents to take immediate actions to secure their safety. This event also saw a lower-level warning issued for over 2 million people across Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Saga, Yamaguchi, and Oita prefectures.

Kurume, Fukuoka marked a 24-hour precipitation of 402.5 mm (15.85 inches) as of 16:00 JST today, which is the highest ever recorded there, while Soeda, Fukuoka saw a total precipitation of 575.5 mm (22.66 inches) over 72 hours up until 09:30 on July 10, setting a record for the month of July.

Hikosan in Soeda, Fukuoka registered 423 mm (16.7 inches) of rain over the past 24 hours, setting an all-time record.

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Image credit: JMA/Himawari-9, ZoomEarth, The Watchers. Acquired at 02:30 UTC on July 10, 2023

The resulting floods and landslides claimed 5 lives and left at least 3 people missing. In Soeda, Fukuoka, an elderly woman was confirmed dead after she and her husband were found trapped in their mud-engulfed house due to a landslide. Three more people in the prefecture were confirmed dead, including a man who was apparently swept away by a flooded river while in his car in Kurume.

Meanwhile, a landslide in Karatsu, Saga Prefecture, hit two houses, where rescuers discovered a woman without vital signs who was later confirmed dead. Two men from the same location remain unaccounted for. Additionally, a woman in her 50s was reported missing in Oita after being swept into a river in Nakatsu.

YouTube video
YouTube video

The disastrous rain caused the Kose River in Kurume City’s Tanushimarumachi district to overflow, leading to a chain reaction of inundated houses and numerous rescue requests. The ground floor of Tanushimaru Central Hospital was also flooded, prompting the relocation of approximately 50 patients to the second floor.

In addition, heavy rain caused disruptions in bullet train services between Hiroshima and Hakata stations on the Sanyo Shinkansen line, and between Hakata and Kumamoto stations on the Kyushu Shinkansen line. Power outages have affected thousands of homes across western Japan, as reported by top government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno.

With the active seasonal rain front expected to remain over the Japanese archipelago through Tuesday, July 11, an unstable atmosphere will likely continue affecting broad areas in western to northern Japan.

In response to the unfolding crisis, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met with his disaster management minister, Koichi Tani, at his office to be updated on the extent of the rain damage. Kishida, scheduled to visit Lithuania and Belgium later this week, stated that a decision on whether to proceed with the tour would be made early Tuesday.

References:

1 ‘A river of muddy water washed onto the road’: Kyushu residents describe record rainfall – The Mainichi – July 10, 2023

2 5 dead, 3 unaccounted for as heavy rain hits southwest Japan – The Mainichi – July 10, 2023

Featured image credit: JMA/Himawari-9, ZoomEarth, The Watchers. Acquired at 02:30 UTC on July 10, 2023

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