Torrential rain moves into central and eastern Japan

The extreme weather that has buffeted southwestern Japan has now made its way to the central and eastern parts of the country. Japan’s Meteorological Agency has downgraded its heavy rain emergency warning for parts of Gifu and Nagano prefectures. But officials are telling residents to continue to exercise caution as water levels are still rising in rivers across the region.

Nakamoto Yoshihisa of the Meteorological Agency says cities and towns in the affected areas are experiencing unprecedented rainfall. The agency had earlier issued a level-5 alert, the highest in its warning system, for the two prefectures. It has downgraded this, but evacuation orders and advisories are still in place across the region.

“It’s highly likely that a disaster, such as a landslide or flooding, has already occurred in certain areas. People in the affected areas must be on alert and take every measure to protect their lives.”

The Japan Meteorological Agency has a 5-level alert system for extreme weather.

Officials in Gifu Prefecture have issued a highlevel warning after the Hida River flooded.

“Water from the river flowed into a rice paddy near my house,” said an evacuee. “It was just five meters away. So we had to evacuate.”

Rivers are also swelling in neighboring Nagano Prefecture, where officials say they have received several reports of flooded homes and mudslides blocking roads. Residents in several municipalities are being urged to evacuate.

Downpours have triggered landslides in Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture. (1:31)

Rescue work underway

Days of continuous heavy rain of have already led to many casualties in southwestern Japan, mainly in Kyushu. Kumamoto has been the hardest-hit prefecture, with 50 deals, including 14 elderly residents of a nursing home.

Across the country, at least 57 people have died and 17 are missing as of Wednesday. Rescue workers are currently searching for survivors.

The Japanese government says it plans to designate the heavy rain as a “severe natural disaster" which will increase the amount of state subsidies available for reconstruction work.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide says rescue workers have already visited the village of Kuma in Kyushu to check on food supplies and residents’ health. He added that personnel will be sent to other isolated villages, and that mudslides will be cleared as soon as possible.

Suga called on residents of the western and northeastern parts of the country to remain on alert, as the rain front is expected to linger through Friday.

Heavy rain unleashes flooding across Kyushu (0:35)