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Japan floods kill 28, thousands remain cut off

Wednesday, July 18, 2012    

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TOKYO, Japan (AP) — Thousands of people in southern Japan remained cut off since Sunday by floods and mudslides triggered by torrential rains that have killed at least 28 people, local authorities said.

Evacuation orders issued a day earlier for a quarter of a million people were lifted in most areas Sunday as the rains subsided, allowing many people to return home.

But thousands remained cut off by landslides or fallen trees that blocked roads in mountainous areas.

More than 3,000 people were left stranded in Yame, in Fukuoka Prefecture in southwestern Japan, where roads were cut off to seven districts, the Kyodo news agency reported, citing local authorities. The Japanese military airlifted food by helicopters to stranded districts.

Local officials raised the death toll from the torrential rains in the northern parts of the Kyushu region to 28 and four people remain missing in Kumamoto, Oita and Fukuoka prefectures, Kyodo reported. Most of the victims were in their 70s and 80s.

In Yame, a 70-year-old man died after being caught in a landslide, while another man died in Yanagawa, also in Fukuoka, after being retrieved from a car at an irrigation channel floodgate, according to local authorities, Kyodo reported.

In Kyoto Prefecture, in western Japan, heavy rainfall of up to 3.5 inches (90 millimetres) per hour flooded around 100 houses each in Kameoka and Kyoto, Japan's old capital, Kyodo reported.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said that the worst was over, but predicted more rain and thunderstorms in some areas through Monday.

Even as some of the water subsided, homes and farms on the southern island of Kyushu, hardest hit by the flooding, were still getting food shipments, although mostly by land, local officials said.

The intense rain occurred as far north as the ancient capital of Kyoto, where rainfall exceeded 90 millimeters (3.5 inches) per hour — a condition in which rain cascades in such torrents that seeing ahead becomes impossible.

Evacuation orders were gradually being lifted, allowing most residents to return home by late Sunday.

Fukuoka prefecture said that as of Monday, damage there extended to more than 4,300 homes, 800 roads and 20 bridges. At least 518 landslides were recorded, and more than 2,700 people had evacuated their homes, it said in a statement.

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