Eleven people were killed, at least 18 others were missing and tens of thousands were ordered evacuated Thursday as downpours lashed Kyushu and other areas in the southwest, police and firefighters said.

The Meteorological Agency said rainfall in parts of Kumamoto and Oita prefectures reached levels that have “never been experienced before.”

The agency meanwhile forecast heavy rain and landslides in other areas of Japan, including the west and northeast.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, speaking during a Diet committee session, said he had received a report on the unprecedented rainfall and vowed his administration would make every effort to address the situation. The government set up a liaison office within the crisis management center at the prime minister’s office.

Among the 11 victims, four were identified, including Kesato Fujii, 78, Shachi Ichihara, 81, Misako Yamabe, 78, all from Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture, and Masakazu Hasegawa, 74, from Taketa, Oita Prefecture, police said. In the two prefectures, 18 people remained missing.

In addition, evacuation orders remained in place as of Thursday evening for some 33,000 people in Kumamoto and Oita prefectures.

In the city of Kumamoto, the municipal government at one point ordered about 48,000 people to evacuate but later lifted the order for some areas after the water level of the Shirakawa River went down.

In Taketa, Oita Prefecture, 15,000 people in 6,600 households were ordered to evacuate.

In Shikoku, meanwhile, heavy rain in Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture, caused landslides that cut off some 100 people, prefectural officials said. No casualties were reported there, the officials added.

The Meteorological Agency said hourly rainfall through 6 a.m. Thursday topped 120 mm in Aso and 120 mm in the village of Ubuyama, northeastern Kumamoto Prefecture.

Train services were suspended and roads were closed. The Kyushu Shinkansen Line was temporarily halted in sections in northern and central Kyushu. The Kyushu Expressway was temporarily closed in Kumamoto Prefecture.


News photo
Rescue workers check buildings in Minamiaso, Kumamoto Prefecture, Thursday after a mudslide ripped through the village.

In the Kinki region centering on Osaka, trains on a line serving Kansai International Airport were temporarily halted.

A power outage hit about 10,000 households in Kumamoto and Oita prefectures, Kyushu Electric Power Co. said.

The Meteorological Agency said warm and humid air flowed into a rain front that extended from the Yellow Sea to southwestern Japan. The front was expected to move south near Honshu later Thursday and then move north Friday.

The agency warned that cumulative rainfall in the 24 hours through Friday morning could reach 200 mm in parts of central Japan as well as in Kyushu and Shikoku, 150 mm in the Kanto-Koshin region, which covers Tokyo and its vicinity, 120 mm in the Tohoku region and 100 mm in the Kinki region.

The agency also warned of lightning and tornadoes.