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Thousands evacuated as wide swathes of Japan pummeled by torrential rain

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The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) on Friday evening sounded an emergency alarm in some parts of Japan heavily-hit by torrential rain, calling for the public to confirm their surroundings and ensure safety.

Record levels of rainfall have continued to hit wide swathes of Japan with evacuation orders being issued for more than 170,000 people spanning nine prefectures, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency here said.

These prefectures include those in the Kansai region, including Osaka, which is still reeling from a powerful earthquake that hit the area in June.

Local authorities said a man in his late 50s has been pronounced dead after being found in an inundated river in Hiroshima Prefecture.

A woman in her 70s or 80s was reportedly found dead inside a drainage facility in central Japan, local police reported, with a number of people remaining unaccounted for, including a man in Kochi Prefecture whose milk deliver car may have been washed away by a river.

A car was retrieved from a swollen river in the early hours of Friday morning, believed to be that of a woman in her 50s who went missing after leaving her home in Kyoto Prefecture.

Two people are missing and may have been buried in a landslide Friday morning in Fukuoka Prefecture, local police said.

According to their accounts, six people have been rescued from the landslide that struck houses in a residential part of the prefecture.

In the same area, however, a teenage boy was washed away in an irrigation canal, according to local media reports.

In Kochi Prefecture in western Japan, more than 900 mm of rain fell over a 48 hour period, leading to prefectural officials to seek the assistance of the Ground Self Defense Force (GSDF) to help with search and rescue operations.

Transportation services have been severely disrupted since Thursday, the transport ministry said, with a number of Shinkansen bullet train services partially disrupted and major arterial highways partially closed.

According to the JMA, an active seasonal rain front is causing torrential rain in most eastern and western regions of Japan, which could continue until Sunday.

The agency said that atmospheric conditions from western to northern Japan are set to remain very unstable owing to warm and moist air flowing into a low pressure system and an active front close to northern Japan.

The front, according to the agency, will become more active as it remains close to Japan’s main island of Honshu.

The agency warned that Japan’s Kinki region, which includes Kyoto, Hyogo and Osaka prefectures, could be particularly hard-hit by downpours, escalating the risk of floods, landslides, lightning and tornadoes.

Rivers from Hokkaido to Kyushu have been reported as running at above flood warning levels and the weather agency has warned of further landslides possibly being triggered by the record-levels of rainfall.

Rain of up to 80 mm per hour with lightning is forecast in the 24-hour period through 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, the JMA said, with 400 mm of rain forecast in the Shikoku region, 300 mm in the Kanto-Koshin, Tokai and northern Kyushu regions and 250 mm in the Kinki, Chugoku and southern Kyushu regions.

The JMA is urging people to stay vigilant and listen out for emergency alarms from local governments issuing advisories or calling for immediate evacuations.

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