Japan issues disaster warnings for fresh rain as toll hits 54

Japan issued fresh landslides and flood warnings Wednesday as torrential rain swept through the country’s center and death toll increased to 54 from downpours days. Heavy rains that began on the island of Kyushu early Saturday have already caused devastation across a swathe of the country’s south-western portion, causing rivers to burst their banks and hillsides.

The weather front is now moving north, and the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) issued its highest level warning for the Gifu and Nagano prefectures in central Japan on Wednesday morning. In a desperate attempt to help people trapped by flooding and landslides at least 80,000 rescue workers have already been mobilized.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last Tuesday promised to increase the number of troops participating in the relief operation to 20,000. The toll in the disaster has steadily increased as rescue workers are discovering new casualties.

At just under 20,000 cases and fewer than 1,000 deaths, Japan has been only mildly affected by the pandemic. However, local media reported that some people prefer to sleep in cars, rather than risk shelter infection. Cardboard walls have been put up at some facilities to isolate families and to try to reduce the risk of infection.