July 5, 2020 / 4:21 AM / a month ago

Flood death toll hits 20 as Japan warned of more rainfall

Police officers search for missing people at a landslide site caused by a heavy rain in Tsunagi town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 5, 2020. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) - The death toll from floods and landslides unleashed by torrential rains on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu rose to 20 on Sunday, with 14 people missing, NHK public TV said.

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.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a meeting of Japan’s disaster response task force to step up the search and rescue operations.

“Nothing is more important than human lives. Please make utmost effort through the night to search for missing people,” Abe said after Japanese television broadcast images of overturned cars, people shovelling mud from their homes and the military rescuing stranded residents in boats.

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

TV footage also showed a gymnasium-turned-evacuation centre equipped with face masks, disinfectants and thermometers to prevent coronavirus infections.

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.”

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Alexander Smith

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