Heavy rain hits picturesque central Japan, more southern damage

Hundreds of tourists have been trapped in scenic hot springs and hiking areas in central Japan by floods and mudslides, while emergency teams searched Thursday for more people missing in rain-related disasters that have already killed over 60 people. Parts of Nagano and Gifu, including areas popular for scenic mountain trails and hot springs, were flooded with heavy downpours lasting almost a week.

More than 300 people were trapped in Kamikochi, including hotel workers and tourists, as floods and mudslides struck a main road that connects the town with Matsumoto, another tourist destination in Nagano. All the people stranded were free, prefectural officials said. Hundreds were also isolated in neighboring Gifu, in the hot spring towns of Gero and Ontake.

The death toll from the heavy rains that began over the weekend had risen to 63 by Thursday evening, most of them from the hardest-hit Kumamoto prefecture on Japan’s third largest island of Kyushu. Fourteen of the victims were residents of a nursing home near the riverside. Hundreds of thousands of people were under evacuation advisories in areas, but departure was not mandatory and the number who found shelter was not known. In early summer, Japan is at high risk of heavy rain as the wet and warm air from the East China Sea flows into a seasonal rain front over the region.