TOKYO—Japan ordered more than one million people on the southernmost island of Kyushu to take shelter in evacuation centers and other safe areas on Wednesday as heavy rains triggered small landslides and threatened to cause widespread flooding.
Some parts of southern Kyushu have received over 1,000 mm (39.4 inches) of rain since Friday, about as much as usually falls in the whole month of July, broadcaster NHK said.
Forecasters expect as much as 300 mm more rainfall in some areas by Thursday evening.
Evacuation orders were issued for 1.1 million residents of Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures at the southern tip of Kyushu, NHK said. Some 930,000 more were advised to leave.
Only some 3,500 people had evacuated as of 4:00 p.m. (local time), according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.
“I live alone next to a river, and it’s scary to think of water rising,” one woman in an evacuation center told NHK. Another person said the volume of rainfall was “terrible”.
Television footage showed rivers filled with fast-moving brown water, but none had overflowed their banks as of Wednesday evening, although one low dike had broken.
Several small landslides were reported, including one that swept away two cars and damaged a pre-fabricated shed. A mother and child in another car swept away by a landslide sustained minor injuries.
One elderly woman was killed in a mudslide in Kagoshima, where the rain flooded dozens of homes.
“The rain was just flowing all over the rice fields,” one woman told NHK.
Weather officials say extremely heavy rain will hit the island of Kyushu in southwestern Japan through Thursday. They are warning people in the region to stay on the alert for rain-triggered disasters and to take precautions to ensure their own safety.https://t.co/gEj1i5DMYy
— ＮＨＫ生活・防災 (@nhk_seikatsu) July 3, 2019
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kotaro Nogami said 14,000 ground troops were standing by for emergency rescue and search operations if needed.
He urged residents to use caution and try to evacuate early “to protect your lives” rather than waiting until the last minute.
A Twitter user posted a photo of a road covered with brown water. “Whoa, the road I take to work is a mess,” the user wrote.
In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said residents should “take steps to protect their lives, including early evacuation,” and he ordered the military to prepare for rescue operations.
Abe was criticized for the government’s slow response in July a year ago, when heavy rains triggered landslides and floods, killing more than 200 people in Japan’s worst weather disaster in 36 years.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.