No fewer than 50 people were in the aftermath of floods and landslides caused by heavy rain in western Japan.
The country’s Meteorological Agency issued its second-highest emergency warning for heavy rain and landslides over vast swathes of the country’s southwest and said “risks are rising” nationwide.
Emergency services in the region were racing against time on Tuesday to rescue people stranded.
According to a government spokesman, at least 50 deaths have been confirmed in the rains that began early Saturday, however, the toll is expected to rise, with two more feared dead and over a dozen reported missing.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he was doubling the deployment of rescue personnel, including police and firefighters as well as coast guards and troops, to 80,000.
Dozens of children and their teachers at an elementary school in Omuta city, spent the night sheltering on the upper floor of the building after floodwater inundated the ground level.
Rivers overflowing their banks have swept away bridges and turned roads into lakes, making rescue access possible only by raft or helicopter. The fear of spreading the coronavirus have further complicated evacuation efforts.
Authorities in Yatsushiro city converted the local sports gymnasium into a shelter, with families separated off by cardboard walls to prevent the spread of the virus.
Japan is in the middle of its annual rainy season, which frequently unleashes deadly floods and landslides. In 2018, more than 200 people died in devastating floods in the country’s western region.