Tokyo — The death toll from heavy rains and flooding in southern Japan has risen to 15, media reported yesterday, as rescuers continued work to bring out isolated survivors.
Raging rivers overflowing with water and mud have devastated swathes of Kyushu — the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands — after heavy rainfall, sweeping away roads and houses and destroying schools.
Thousands of rescuers have been fighting through thick mud and battling rain to search for missing and stranded people, with more than 600 believed to still be cut off, according to Jiji Press.
Jiji and public broadcaster NHK reported the death toll had risen to 15 as more bodies were discovered.
The central government announced Friday an official death toll of seven with 22 people unaccounted for.
Deep mud and soaked ground on steep hillsides as well as knocked-out bridges have hampered rescue work.
TV footage has shown rescuers strapping people to cables to be lifted up to helicopters to be ferried to safety in evacuation shelters.
Aerial TV footage on Friday showed desperate residents of one isolated area using uprooted trees to spell out “SOS” for rescuers to see.
Fallen trees smashed into houses in the hard-hit Fukuoka prefecture city of Asakura, which saw more than 50 centimeters of rain in a 12-hour period to Wednesday night.
“My parents are still trapped with 16 other people in the Kurogawa area, and I have absolutely no information about the situation there,” Asakura resident Kayoko Ishibashi told Agence France-Presse Friday, referring to a district in the city.
The government has dispatched some 12,000 police, military, firefighters and coast guard personnel for rescue operations.