KURASHIKI, Japan (Reuters) – The death toll from torrential rain and landslides in western Japan rose to 81 people on Sunday, with dozens still missing after more than 2,000, temporarily stranded in the city of Kurashiki, were rescued.
Evacuation orders were in place for nearly two million people and landslide warnings were issued in many prefectures.
In hard-hit western Japan, emergency services and military personnel used helicopters and boats to rescue people from swollen rivers and buildings, including a hospital.
Scores of staff and patients, some still in their pajamas, were rescued from the isolated Mabi Memorial Hospital in boats rowed by members of Japan’s Self Defense Forces.
A city official said 170 patients and staff had been evacuated while public broadcaster NHK later said about 80 people were still stranded.
“I’m most grateful to the rescuers,” said Shigeyuki Asano, a 79-year-old patient who spent a night without electricity or water. “I feel so relieved that I am now liberated from such a bad-smelling, dark place.”
Kurashiki, with a population of just under 500,000, was among the hardest hit by rains that pounded many parts of western Japan, with the death toll exceeding the 77 killed in heavy rains and landslides in 2014 and the highest since a typhoon that killed 98 people in 2004.
Television footage showed a massive rescue operation, with 2,310 rescued in the city by evening, according to NHK, while search and rescue teams continued to look for others.