Torrential rains have created dangerous conditions in southwestern Japan, prompting evacuation orders for more than 1.1 million people in the Kyushu region, according to state broadcaster NHK News. Officials are warning of the risk of flooding and mudslides.
Roughly half of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s main islands, is under a warning or advisory for risks of landslides and heavy rain, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. The flood warning covers a slightly smaller area.
“Please take action to protect your lives,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday, according to The Japan Times.
As of early evening local time, authorities had issued evacuation orders for 1,123,000 people in parts of two prefectures: Kagoshima and Miyazaki. Evacuation advisories were issued for nearly 870,000 people in nearby areas, according to NHK.
The evacuation orders come as Kyushu and nearby regions have struggled to absorb persistent heavy rains that began late last week. Some areas have already surpassed record rainfall levels, and with more rain in the forecast, the ground could simply give way, Japan’s weather agency says.
“Rainfall in some parts of southern Kyushu has reached 1,000 millimeters [39 inches] since Friday,” NHK reports.
The governor of Kagoshima prefecture asked Japan’s Self-Defense Forces on Wednesday to dispatch a disaster team to help residents and emergency crews cope with landslides and floods, according to Japan’s Ministry of Defense.
“Japanese Self-Defense Forces has about 14,000 personnel in place,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kotaro Nogami said. He added that Japan’s central government is coordinating police, firefighters, coast guard and other agencies to respond quickly to emergencies.
The torrential rain comes from a phenomenon known as the Baiu front, which brings seasonal rains to most of Japan. In the current situation, the front has stalled out and is pouring water onto southern Japan, according to Japanese weather officials.
Historically, the rainy period usually lasts from early June to mid- or late July for Kyushu and areas to the north.