Hundreds stranded in Japan as downpours cause more than 60 deaths

Flooding and mudslides have stranded hundreds of people in scenic hot springs and hiking areas in central Japan.

Rescue workers searched on Thursday for more people missing in rain-related disasters that have already killed more than 60 people in the country.

Parts of Nagano and Gifu, including areas known for scenic mountain trails and hot springs, have been flooded by massive downpours that have lasted nearly a week.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Workers attempt to restore a collapsed road hit by heavy rains in Takayama, Gifu (Kyodo News/AP)</figcaption>
Workers attempt to restore a collapsed road hit by heavy rains in Takayama, Gifu (Kyodo News/AP)

More than 300 people, including hotel employees and visitors, are trapped in Kamikochi as floods and mudslides hit a main road connecting the town to Matsumoto, another tourist destination in Nagano.

All of the stranded people are safe, prefectural officials said.

In neighbouring Gifu, hundreds are isolated in the hot spring towns of Gero and Ontake.

As of Thursday evening, the death toll from the heavy rains that started over the weekend had risen to 63, most of them from hardest-hit Kumamoto prefecture on Japan’s third largest island of Kyushu.

A total of 14 of the victims were residents at a riverside nursing home.

Searching continued for a dozen people still missing in Kumamoto and several others elsewhere on the island.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>A road damaged by a heavy rain in Hita, Oita prefecture (Kyodo News/AP)</figcaption>
A road damaged by a heavy rain in Hita, Oita prefecture (Kyodo News/AP)

In Oita prefecture, a family of four running an inn in the famous hot spring town of Yufuin was missing.

Floodwaters also ravaged local produce ready for shipment to consumers.

An eel farm in Kagoshima was hit by rains just before Japan’s unagi season later this month.

“I can’t ship them or even go near the place to feed them or change the water,” eel grower Kazuya Kusuda told TBS television.

Japan is at high risk of heavy rain in early summer when wet and warm air from the East China Sea flows into a seasonal rain front above the country.

In July 2018, more than 200 people, about half of them in Hiroshima, died from heavy rain and flooding in south-western Japan.