Unprecedented rain in Japan unleashed heavy floods on Friday that tore houses from their foundations, uprooted trees and forced more than 100,000 people from their homes.
Helicopters hovering over swirling, muddy waters rescued many people from the roofs of their homes. Seven people were missing and at least 17 were injured, one seriously.
Some areas received double the usual September rainfall in 48 hours after tropical storm Etau swept across Japan’s main island of Honshu. In some places, rain-swollen rivers burst their banks.
A 63-year old woman was missing in a landslide that hit her home while a man in his 70s in the town of Joso, 56 km (35 miles) north of Tokyo, was feared trapped when water engulfed his home, NHK national television said.
“We heard a huge sound like a thunderclap, and then the hillside came down,” a man told NHK, referring to the landslide that swept away his neighbor.
Television broadcast footage of helicopters winching people to safety, including an elderly couple clutching a pair of struggling dogs as the flood tore away pieces of their home.
A further 800,000 people were at one point advised to evacuate after officials issued predawn warnings of “once in a half century rains” to 5 million people in areas east and north of Tokyo.
Japan has put heavy emphasis on disaster prevention since a 2011 earthquake and tsunami killed nearly 20,000 people and authorities are keen to avoid the kind of criticism they faced then, for what was seen as a sluggish response.
The government set up an emergency center, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a meeting of ministers that the “unprecedented” rain had created an emergency. See video