At least 50 people have died and a dozen are missing after persistent, heavy rainfall unleashed flash floods on the Japanese island of Kyushu. Forecasters said the rain is expected to continue into Wednesday.
At least 1.2 million people have been advised to evacuate their homes on Japan's southern island of Kyushu, as torrential rain continues to lash southwestern Japan.
In Kyushu's Kumamoto prefecture, the region hardest hit by the flooding, 49 deaths were reported in towns along the Kuma River, according to Japan's Fire and Disaster Management Agency. The deaths included 14 residents of a riverside nursing home. Another death was reported in Fukuoka prefecture to the north.
Authorities said the death toll could rise, as at least a dozen people are still missing.
The heavy rainfall, which began early Saturday, is expected to continue into Tuesday, as the slow-moving system continues northeast.
Japan's Meteorological Agency (JMA) has issued an emergency warning for heavy rain and landslides over much of southwestern Japan. The JMA forecast up to 250 millimeters of rainfall for the region through Wednesday.
'Race against time'
In Kumamoto, continued rain, landslides and flooding are complicating search and rescue operations.
Tens of thousands of rescue workers have been mobilized from around Japan and are working their way through mud and debris in towns along the Kuma River.
Soldiers were reported rescuing people on boats in flooded streets. In other areas, overflowing rivers swept away bridges and turned roads into rivers making rescue only possible by raft or helicopter.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would increase the deployment of rescue personnel to the region to 80,000.
"We are racing against time," Yutaro Hamasaki, an official in Kumamoto, told AFP news agency. "We really need to speed up our search as time is running out."
see,wr/rc (dpa, AP)