15 Jul 2012

Thousands cut off by floods in Japan

10:20 pm on 15 July 2012

Japanese troops are airlifting supplies to thousands of people cut off by landslides and torrential downpours that have killed at least 24 in the southwestern part of the country as meteorologists warn of further heavy rain.

The food and medicine is being sent to remote mountainous areas in Fukuoka prefecture on Kyushu island.

Local authorities are separately dispatching rescue helicopters to take patients and elderly villagers to hospital.

More than 5440 people have been cut off since late Saturday as landslides and fallen trees have blocked roads and water supplies in the region, which has been hit by unprecedented rainfall since Wednesday.

Rescue operations resumed early on Sunday in affected areas of Kyushu, where at least eight people were still missing after a total of 24 people were confirmed dead in landslides or floods.

Public broadcaster NHK showed rescuers using heavy machinery to remove uprooted trees, boulders and debris, while residents scooped mud out of their houses with shovels.

Some 3600 people continued to be ordered or advised to leave their homes as at least 2800 houses were flooded after local authorities lifted similar advice to some 400,000 others by Sunday morning, NHK said.

The weather eased somewhat on Sunday, bringing temporary relief, but the Japan Meteorological Agency warned of more heavy rain, landslides and floods on the main southern island of Kyushu.

Rainfall of up to 81.7 centimetres has been recorded in hardest-hit Aso at the foot of a volcano, where at least 18 people were killed and four others were still missing.

Television footage showed torrents of muddy, debris-strewn water and flooded houses following what officials described as "unprecedented" downpours from a seasonal rain front.