Japan battered by more heavy rain, floods; 58 dead

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This aerial photo shows the flooded area caused by the swollen Chikugo River, not seen in photo, in Kurume city, Fukuoka prefecture, southern Japan Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Pounding rain that already caused deadly floods in southern Japan was moving northeast Wednesday, battering large areas of Japan's main island, swelling more rivers, triggering mudslides and destroying houses and roads. (Kyodo News via AP)

TOKYO – Pounding rain that already caused deadly floods in southern Japan was moving northeast Wednesday, battering large areas of Japan's main island, swelling more rivers, triggering mudslides and destroying houses and roads. At least 58 people died in several days of flooding.

Parts of Nagano and Gifu, including areas known for scenic mountain trails and hot springs, were flooded by massive downpours.

Public broadcaster NHK showed a swollen river gouging into its embankment and destroying a highway. In the city of Gero, the rising river was flowing just below a bridge.

Flooding and mudslides blocked parts of a main road connecting Kamikochi and Matsumoto, two major tourist destinations in Nagano, stranding hundreds of residents and visitors, though they were believed to have safely evacuated. In neighboring Gifu, hundreds were isolated in the hot spring towns of Gero and Ontake.

In the scenic mountainous town of Takayama, several houses were hit by a mudslide, but their residents were safely rescued.

As of Wednesday morning, the death toll from the heavy rains which started over the weekend had risen to 58, most of them from hardest-hit Kumamoto prefecture. Four others died in Fukuoka, another prefecture on Kyushu, Japan's third-largest island.

At the peak, as many as 3.6 million people were advised to evacuate, although it wasn't mandatory and the number who sought shelter was not known. About half of the advisories had been lifted by Wednesday afternoon.

In places where rain has subsided, residents were busy cleaning up their homes and workplaces.