TOKYO — At least 38 people have been killed and 50 others were missing as torrential rains pounded western and central Japan and forced more than 1.6 million people from their homes, the public broadcaster NHK said on Saturday.
The Japan Meteorological Agency issued special weather warnings across four prefectures in the west of the country’s main island, Honshu, urging vigilance against landslides, rising rivers and strong wind amid what it called “historic” rains. At least five people were in critical condition with injuries, officials said.
The agency said that although a weather front had settled between western and eastern Japan, there was a risk that heavy rains would continue as warm air flowed toward the front. Areas already saturated faced more rain on Sunday, it said.
A man in the western city of Hiroshima died after falling off a bridge into a river, while a 77-year-old man in Takashima City in the Shiga Prefecture was killed after being swept into a canal as he worked to remove debris, NHK said. One woman, 95, was found dead in her house after part of a nearby mountain collapsed.
Two other people were feared dead after being found in buildings hit by landslides, NHK said. The two were found in a state of “cardiopulmonary” arrest, a term used by the Japanese authorities to describe victims before their deaths have been confirmed.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that about 48,000 police officers, firefighters and members of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces were responding to more than 100 landslides and other emergency situations.
By Saturday morning, more than one million people were ordered to evacuate their homes amid fears of flooding and further landslides, with an additional 3.1 million advised to leave, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said.
In Motoyama, a town on the southern Shikoku Island, 23 inches of rain fell in the 24 hours between Friday and Saturday mornings, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
Some transportation was affected on the southwestern island of Kyushu. Wide parts of an expressway were covered with soil and landslide debris in the north of the island, the agency Kyodo News reported.
The weather also hit industry. Some automakers halted production as the rain and flooding disrupted supply chains and risked workers’ safety, Kyodo said.
Mitsubishi Motors halted operations at one plant because it could not get parts, the news agency said. Mazda stopped production lines at two plants so employees would not have to travel in hazardous conditions.
Military water trucks were rushing to areas where water systems were no longer working, said officials in Okayama Prefecture, in southwestern Honshu, according to The Associated Press.
Although Japan is among the most modernized of Asian nations, rural areas are hit hard by the rainy season each year, often resulting in casualties and heavy damage, The A.P. said.