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Kyodo/via Reuters
An elderly couple looks at a flooded area in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture.
SKYFALL

Thousands of people are in danger from Japan’s worst rains in 50 years

Tripti Lahiri
By Tripti Lahiri

Asia bureau chief

More than 90 people have died and millions were told to leave their homes to escape flooding after rainfall over a two-day period in parts of western and central Japan exceeded a 50-year-old record (paywall). Nearly 60 people are missing.

More than 50,000 of Japan’s police, fire, and self-defense forces are trying to get to thousands who are waiting to be rescued in prefectures such as Hiroshima and Okayama, where rainfall has been the heaviest.

Reuters/Issei Kato
Help on the way in Okayama prefecture on Sunday.

“Rescues, saving lives and evacuations are a race against time,” prime minister Shinzo Abe said on Sunday as he met with officials overseeing the response. “There are still many people whose safety has yet to be confirmed.”

The extraordinarily heavy rain started on Thursday, due to a front of very humid air caused by rather warm sea temperatures and the northeast movement of Typhoon Prapiroon, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Kyodo/via Reuters
Cars travel on roads that have turned to mud.

By Saturday morning, more than 1.6 million people had been ordered to leave their homes because of the risk of floods or landslides, while another 3 million were advised to leave, according to the country’s disaster management agency. Later, the total ordered or advised to leave rose to nearly 6 million. The orders were not mandatory, and it’s unclear how many left their homes.

Rainfall has eased, but power and water have been cut off to parts of western Japan.

Major manufacturers in the area around Hiroshima and Okayama, such as Panasonic, Mazda, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, have shuttered factories.

Reuters/Issei Kato
Submerged houses in the town of Mabi, in Okayama.
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