700,000 people ordered to evacuate as rain lashes Japan


Authorities ordered more than 700,000 people in Kagoshima in Japan’s southern island of Kyushu to evacuate from record rains that are forecast to last for the next several days.

The Japan Meteorological Agency has called for “severe caution” toward potential landslides and flooding. The agency said that it may issue an “emergency warning,” used for weather events that occur only once every several decades, if extremely intense rain continues for several hours in the same areas.

As much as 350 millimeters of rain was expected in Kyushu by 6 a.m. Thursday as the Baiu front, which brings heavy rain to Japan, stalled over the island. Residents in areas expected to be affected were urged to take action as early as possible, and seek shelter at local evacuation centers, typically school gymnasiums or other public buildings.

A woman in her 70s was reported dead in Kagoshima after a landslide hit her home, public broadcaster NHK said, though there were no other reports of casualties.


Emergency Warning

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged citizens to follow local authorities’ warnings and take early action to save their own lives, and said that 14,000 Self-Defense Force troops were on standby to assist.

The emergency warning, a system introduced in 2013, will be issued if a “significant likelihood of catastrophe” is expected. The weather agency has faced criticism, including after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, that it has failed to sufficiently alert people to the urgency of impending disasters.

The warnings have been issued several times for heavy rains, as well as the impacts of the typhoons that frequently batter the island chain. While most of Japan experiences a rainy season from early June to late July, recent years have seen an increase in extreme weather events and heavy flooding.

A historic downpour in western Japan last July killed more than 200 people and disrupted production for several companies in the region, while in 2014 landslides killed more than 70 people in Hiroshima following torrential rains.