Japan has ordered more than 1.1 million people on the southern island of Kyushu to shelter in evacuation centres and other safe areas as torrential rain triggers flooding and landslides.
Some parts of southern Kyushu have received up to a metre of rain since Friday, and forecasters had predicted as much as 350 millimetres more to fall in in some areas by midday on Thursday, public broadcaster NHK said.
Evacuation orders were issued for nearly 600,000 residents of Kagoshima city and two smaller cities in the same prefecture, the broadcaster said.
Another 310,000 residents of the island were advised to find shelter, Kyodo News reported.
Houses and fields were inundated after river dikes washed away in Miyazaki and Kagoshima prefectures, according to Japan Today.
It said Japan’s Ground Self-Defence Force was sending troops to affected areas at the request of the local governor.
In Kagoshima prefecture, a 33-year-old woman and her child reportedly suffered minor injuries when her vehicle was trapped by a mudslide in Shibushi. Elsewhere, an 80-year-old woman fractured her shoulder after a fall in Satsumasendai.
The torrential rain also disrupted sections of the Kyushu bullet train line and prompted the closure of more than 150 schools.
In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said residents should “take steps to protect their lives, including early evacuation”. He ordered the military to prepare for rescue operations if needed.
Mr Abe was criticised for the government’s slow response last July when heavy rain triggered landslides and floods, killing more than 200 people in Japan’s worst weather disaster in 36 years.
Japan’s Meteorological Agency has warned that life-threatening landslides are possible at any time in parts of Kagoshima.
“If torrential downpours continue for hours in the same region, we might issue the special rain warning,” which is the highest level warning indicating a disaster has occurred, agency official Ryuta Kurora told AFP.
“It will be too late to evacuate after the warning is issued,” he said.
The wet weather is expected to rain over Japan until the weekend – and could also affect the country’s east.