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Natural Disasters

Thousands evacuate in Japanese floods

Around a quarter of a million people have been ordered to leave their homes in southwest Japan because of severe flooding. At least 20 people have died so far in the deluge.

Evacuation orders have been issued to about 260,000 people on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu as torrential rain pounded the area for a third day on Saturday.

The orders were issued in four prefectures, with at least 78,000 residents in Fukuoka prefecture alone being told to leave their homes after more rivers burst their banks. Designated shelters have been set up in schools and public facilities

An official from Fukuoka prefecture, Hiroaki Aoki, told AFP news agency that 820 houses had been damaged. He said there had been over 181 landslides in the region.

Many more thousands of people have also been advised to abandon their homes in the four prefectures affected. At least nine people have been reported missing.

Most of the fatalities so far have occurred in and around the city of Aso in Kumamoto prefecture, where 19 people have died in house collapses and landslides.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said the city has seen more than 75 centimeters (29.5 inches) of rain fall in 72 hours. The average monthly rainfall in the city is just 57 centimeters (22.4 inches).

The agency warned that rainfall of up to eight centimeters an hour (3 inches) could hit parts of northern Kyushu later on Saturday.

tj/slk (dpa, AFP)