Saturday's unprecedented rains in the Kumamoto prefecture of central Kyushu unleashed floods and landslides.

Residents are evacuated from flood-affected area by rubber boats in Kuma village, Kumamoto prefecture, on July 5, 2020.
Residents are evacuated from flood-affected area by rubber boats in Kuma village, Kumamoto prefecture, on July 5, 2020. (AFP)

Deep floodwaters and the risk of more mudslides that left at least 34 people confirmed or presumed dead hampered search and rescue operations on Sunday in southern Japan, including at elderly home facilities where more than a dozen died and scores were still stranded.

More heavy rain is forecast after Saturday's deadly deluge in the Kumamoto prefecture, Japan's worst natural disaster since Typhoon Hagibis in October last year left about 90 people dead.

Saturday's unprecedented rains in the Kumamoto prefecture of central Kyushu unleashed floods and landslides.

Television broadcast images of overturned cars, people shovelling mud from their homes and the military rescuing stranded residents in boats.

An aerial view shows flood-hit area in Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto prefecture on July 4, 2020.
An aerial view shows flood-hit area in Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto prefecture on July 4, 2020. (AFP)

"We had no electricity and no running water," one rescued woman told the broadcaster. "It was tough."

The Japan Meteorological Agency urged people to stay vigilant, as more rains are predicted.

"From this evening on, extremely heavy rains with thunder are expected in southern as well as northern Kyushu," an agency official told Reuters.

"The rainfall so far has already loosened the ground. There is a high chance of landslides occurring, even without much additional rain."

Firefighters unload the relief supplies from a Japan Self-Defense Forces helicopter following heavy rain in Kuma village, Kumamoto prefecture, on July 5, 2020.
Firefighters unload the relief supplies from a Japan Self-Defense Forces helicopter following heavy rain in Kuma village, Kumamoto prefecture, on July 5, 2020. (AFP)

Japan floods leave many dead in nursing homes

Helicopters and boats rescued more people from their homes in the Kumamoto region. More than 40,000 defense troops, the coast guard and fire brigades were taking part in the operation.

Large areas along the Kuma River were swallowed by floodwaters with many houses, buildings and vehicles submerged almost up to their roofs.

Mudslides smashed into houses, sending people atop rooftops waiving at rescuers.

Sixty-five residents and about 30 caregivers were trapped at the riverside care facility Senjuen when floodwaters and mud gushed in. All remaining 51 residents, including three who had hypothermia, had been rescued by boats and taken to hospitals for treatment by Sunday afternoon, officials said.

Members of Japan's Self-Defence Forces work at the site of a landslide caused by heavy rain in Ashikita, Kumamoto prefecture on July 4, 2020.
Members of Japan's Self-Defence Forces work at the site of a landslide caused by heavy rain in Ashikita, Kumamoto prefecture on July 4, 2020. (AFP)

In Hitoyoshi City, the deluge poured into houses near the main train station. "The water rose to the second floor so fast and I just couldn’t stop shivering,” a 55-year-old woman who was visiting her relatives told the Asahi newspaper.

She and her relatives ran upstairs, swam out of the window and eventually took refuge on the roof to wait for their rescue.

75,000 told to evacuate

More than 75,000 residents in the prefectures of Kumamoto and Kagoshima were urged to evacuate following pounding rains on Friday evening and into Saturday. The evacuation was not mandatory and many people opted to stay home because of concerns over catching the coronavirus, even though officials say shelters are adequately equipped with partitions and other safety measures.

Flooding also cut off power and communication lines, further delaying the search and rescue. Nearly 6,000 homes in Kumamoto were still without electricity Sunday, according to the Kyushu Electric Power Co.

The rainfall that exceeded 100 millimeters (4 inches) per hour has since subsided but the Japan Meteorological Agency has kept mudslide warnings in place across Kumamoto.

More rainfalls expected

The Japan Meteorological Agency urged people to stay vigilant, as more rains are predicted.

"From this evening on, extremely heavy rains with thunder are expected in southern as well as northern Kyushu," an agency official told Reuters.

"The rainfall so far has already loosened the ground. There is a high chance of landslides occurring, even without much additional rain.

READ MORE: Heavy rain floods southern Japan, several feared dead

Source: TRTWorld and agencies