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Police officers search for missing people at a landslide site caused by heavy rain in Tsunagi town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 5, 2020. [Reuters]

Torrential rains that hit Japan’s southern island of Kyushu killed 16 people, with 13 going missing and 17 showing no vital signs, public broadcaster NHK said on Sunday, as the weather agency expects heavy rain to resume by evening.

Saturday’s unprecedented rains in the Kumamoto prefecture of central Kyushu unleashed floods and landslides.

Television broadcast images of overturned cars, people shoveling mud from their homes and the military rescuing stranded residents in boats.

“We had no electricity and no running water,” one rescued woman told the broadcaster. “It was tough.”

The Japan Meteorological Agency urged people to stay vigilant, as more rains are predicted.

“From this evening on, extremely heavy rains with thunder are expected in southern as well as northern Kyushu,” an agency official told Reuters.

“The rainfall so far has already loosened the ground. There is a high chance of landslides occurring, even without much additional rain.”

With the region facing the risk of further floods and landslides, authorities told 92,200 households in the prefectures of Kumamoto and Kagoshima to vacate their homes, the Kyodo news agency said.

“The heavy rainfall is likely to continue until Sunday, and people in the area are required to be on maximum alert,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, adding that as many as 10,000 soldiers would be sent to join the rescue operations.

The flooding of the Kuma River in the region had cut off homes and washed away a bridge, said national broadcaster NHK, which displayed television footage of houses and cars inundated by muddy waters.

NHK said the 16 feared dead included 14 who suffered cardiac arrest at an elderly home in Kumamoto that was submerged by rising waters, citing the governor of the prefecture.

Nine more were missing, it added, with one of the injured in a serious condition.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency downgraded its alert from the highest level it had initially posted to warn against floods and landslides triggered by the rain never seen before in the region, the broadcaster said.

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