Most of the deaths were on the southern island of Kyushu, where rains fell at a rate of almost four inches per hour, causing flash floods that swept cars off streets and landslides that swallowed homes. Five people were still missing and at least 3,000 people have been isolated by flooding, authorities said.
Japan’s national weather agency warned that more rain may be on the way. The Japan Meteorological Agency said that while the storm’s peak had passed, there was still the possibility of heavy rains in some areas and with them the threat of more flooding. However, authorities said it now appeared safe for many of those who had fled their homes for school gymnasiums and other evacuation centers to go home.
Deaths from landslides and flooding are common in mountainous Japan, where scarcity of flat land suitable for building can lead to homes being erected at the base of steep hills or in narrow river valleys. But the unusual intensity of the weekend’s rains and the resulting death toll led to discussion in local media of global warming bringing more extreme weather.
Not surprisingly in this rapidly aging nation, many of the victims were elderly, which may have prevented them from moving quickly enough to escape, authorities said.
In Yame, a small city in Kyushu’s Fukuoka Prefecture, authorities said a 70-year-old man was caught in a landslide while inspecting his rice paddies, and an 83-year-old woman died when her home was covered in mud. In a neighboring town, a man’s body was retrieved after his car was swept into a large irrigation ditch, authorities said.
In Kyoto, authorities said around 100 homes were flooded. Photos showed brown waters overflowing the banks of a pond to partially surround the Golden Pavilion, a gold leaf-covered Buddhist temple that is one of Japan’s most recognizable cultural icons. The pavilion itself, which is a reconstruction of a building originally built six centuries ago, appeared to remain safely above the water’s reach.