The death toll from days of heavy rain and flooding in southern Japan rose to 55 on Tuesday with another dozen people still missing, officials said.
The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said 49 of the dead were from riverside towns in the Kumamoto prefecture, while one person was found dead in another prefecture of Fukuoka as the heavy rain spread across the southern area.
Tens of thousands of soldiers, police and other rescue workers were called up from around the country and were working their way through mud and debris in the hardest-hit riverside towns along the Kuma River, the agency added.
Rescue operations have been hampered by the floodwater and continuing harsh weather that have caused more flooding elsewhere in the Kyushu region, including in Fukuoka and Oita, since heavy rain began pounding the country’s south on Friday.
In the Omuta district of Fukuoka, residents including a two-month-old baby were rescued on boats by the military.
About three million residents were advised to evacuate across the Kyushu region.
Among the victims were 14 of the 65 elderly residents of a nursing home next to the Kuma River, known as the “raging river” because it is joined by another river just upstream and is prone to flooding.
The river rose abruptly and its embankment gave in, causing floodwater to gush into the Senjuen nursing home. Most of the residents were bedridden or wheelchair users, and there was no elevator at the facility.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was “deeply saddened” by the deaths and “expressed his deep condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to the people and government of Japan,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.