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Japan -10 dead, 18 missing in heavy Kyushu rains

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Torrential rains have lashed Kyushu island in western Japan, leaving 10 dead and 18 missing. The meteorological agency says the region has never experienced such severe rain and warns of further rainfall.

The rain began in the early hours of Thursday morning as a seasonal rain front was activated by warm and moist southerly winds. In Kumamoto and neighboring Oita prefectures, hourly rainfalls of 100 millimeters were recorded.

In Aso, Kumamoto, hit by a record 500 millimeters of rain, and neighboring Minami-Aso, landslides washed away houses. The police say 9 people died and 17 are missing.

In Taketa City, Oita, a man in his 70s drowned in a swollen river and another man in his 80s is missing. He had left his home to check on his rice paddies.

Precipitation is now weakening as rainclouds move off the eastern coast. But the weather agency is warning torrential rains may return tomorrow as the seasonal front again extends across the Kyushu region.

It says another 200 millimeters of precipitation is expected in Kyushu and other regions in western and central Japan.

Experts say hourly rain of 100 millimeters, the amount that hit some areas of Kyushu, has enough destructive power to spark a large-scale disaster.

The Meteorological Agency says hourly rainfall of over 80 millimeters causes fear and stress. It makes driving hazardous and can cause a major disaster.

Chuo University Professor Tadashi Yamada says heavy rain of the type that hit Aso, located on a caldera of Mount Aso, flows down the surfaces of mountains before being absorbed into the soil.

The quick erosion of the soil is likely to cause mudslides, and the water rapidly raises river levels, increasing the risks of flooding.

Yamada says accurately forecasting torrential rain is difficult. He advises locals to check the state of rainclouds on the weather bureau’s websites and evacuate quickly when needed.

On Thursday, the meteorological agency warned Kumamoto and Oita prefectures that the size of the expected rainfall was unprecedented.

The agency decided to use the expression a month ago to send out a strong warning that the rainfall was of a type that only hit once in 50 years.

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Jul. 12, 2012

NHK.