Rescuers scramble after flash floods sweep parts of south Japan

AFP , Wednesday 5 Jul 2017

A road is flooded by heavy rain in Asakura, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan in this photo taken by Kyodo on July 5, 2017 (Photo: Reuters)

Rescuers were being scrambled Thursday to reach areas in southern Japan hit by flash flooding, officials said, with several people feared missing and reports of houses swept away after torrential rains swelled rivers and triggered landslides.

Emergency personnel were being deployed from early Thursday following the inundations overnight that caused authorities in Kyushu island and nearby areas to issue emergency evacuation orders to hundreds of thousands of people.

The city of Asakura, Fukuoka prefecture, was among the hardest hit with television footage showing floodwaters surging through the streets.

"We are hearing of around six to seven people missing so far. That includes a report of a child seen being swept away," said Naohisa Ouchida, an official with Asakura city's disaster management division.

He was not able to confirm any details of those missing, but said authorities had received "many, many" calls from people in distress.

Some locals took to Twitter to appeal for rescue. The account @ek2eoiNcRUqmnMI posted: "Please help! Most houses around us have been swept away. Seven of us are trapped on the second floor of a factory."

Ouchida said city officials had received reports of people cut off by the waters.

"It is very dark outside now so it's difficult for us to confirm those reports. We are also hearing about houses being swept away and landslides blocking streets," he said.

More than 50 centimetres (20 inches) of rain deluged parts of Kyushu in 12 hours on Wednesday, prompting the Japan Meteorological Agency to warn of the potential for significant damage.

A total of 6,000 troops, police officers and other emergency personnel will carry out search and rescue missions from early Thursday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, according to national broadcaster NHK.

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