Japan floods, mudslides kill at least 44 as streets turn to rivers

Torrential rain hit Japan's southwestern island of Kyushu on Monday, with at least one more river bursting its banks, as the death toll from three days of floods and mudslides rose to 44, including 14 at an old people's home.

Evacuation orders were issued for more than half a million island residents, as well as evacuation advisories for tens of thousands more in western Japan, broadcaster NHK said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the rain was forecast to head east by Wednesday and ordered round-the-clock search and rescue operations. Ten people were missing, NHK said.

TV pictures showed streets turned into rivers rushing by at waist high, a collapsed bridge, upturned cars and a helicopter winching a man to safety from an inundated house.

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ASHIKITA, JAPAN - JULY 06: A car lies crushed by a landslide caused by torrential rain, on July 6, 2020 in Ashikita, Japan. Around 37 people are believed to be dead and many missing after unprecedented torrential rain fell in Kumamoto prefecture causing widespread flooding and landslides. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
KUMA, JAPAN - JULY 06: Firemen salvage items from a property that was heavily damaged during flooding after the nearby Kuma River burst its banks following torrential rain, on July 6, 2020 in Kuma, Japan. Around 37 people are believed to be dead and many missing after unprecedented torrential rain fell in Kumamoto prefecture causing widespread flooding and landslides. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A road is destroyed following torrential rain near the Kuma river in Ashikita, Kumamoto prefecture, on July 6, 2020. - At least 37 people are feared dead after record rains lashed areas of western Japan, causing rivers to break banks and flooding low-lying regions. (Photo by STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT (Photo by STR/JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images)
HITOYOSHI, JAPAN - JULY 05: People clear mud from the parking area of a hotel after the nearby Kuma River burst its banks, on July 5, 2020 in Hitoyoshi, Japan. Around 16 people are believed to be dead and 9 missing after unprecedented torrential rain fell in Kumamoto prefecture causing widespread flooding and landslides. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
KUMA, JAPAN - JULY 06: The Kuma River flows high following torrential rain, on July 6, 2020 in Kuma, Japan. Around 37 people are believed to be dead and many missing after unprecedented torrential rain fell in Kumamoto prefecture causing widespread flooding and landslides. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
YATSUSHIRO, JAPAN - JULY 06: People made homeless after torrential rain caused flooding and landslides, shelter in a gymnasium on July 6, 2020 in Yatsushiro, Japan. Around 37 people are believed to be dead and many missing after unprecedented torrential rain fell in Kumamoto prefecture causing widespread flooding and landslides. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
KUMA, JAPAN - JULY 06: A Japan Self-Defence Force (JSDF) soldier checks a property as soldiers work to recover bodies and belongings from buildings that were flooded after the Kuma River burst its banks following torrential rain, on July 6, 2020 in Kuma, Japan. Around 37 people are believed to be dead and many missing after unprecedented torrential rain fell in Kumamoto prefecture causing widespread flooding and landslides. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
KUMA, JAPAN - JULY 06: Debris and driftwood cover the driveway to a property that was heavily damaged during flooding after the nearby Kuma River burst its banks following torrential rain, on July 6, 2020 in Kuma, Japan. Around 37 people are believed to be dead and many missing after unprecedented torrential rain fell in Kumamoto prefecture causing widespread flooding and landslides. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
KUMA, JAPAN - JULY 06: A road is rendered unappeasable after partially collapsing into the Kuma River after flooding caused by torrential rain, on July 6, 2020 in Kuma, Japan. Around 37 people are believed to be dead and many missing after unprecedented torrential rain fell in Kumamoto prefecture causing widespread flooding and landslides. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
KUMA, JAPAN - JULY 06: Men work to clear a bridge that was blocked by driftwood and debris during flooding after the nearby Kuma River burst its banks following torrential rain, on July 6, 2020 in Kuma, Japan. Around 37 people are believed to be dead and many missing after unprecedented torrential rain fell in Kumamoto prefecture causing widespread flooding and landslides. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
KUMA, JAPAN - JULY 06: A road is rendered unappeasable after partially collapsing into the Kuma River after flooding caused by torrential rain, on July 6, 2020 in Kuma, Japan. Around 37 people are believed to be dead and many missing after unprecedented torrential rain fell in Kumamoto prefecture causing widespread flooding and landslides. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
ASHIKITA, JAPAN - JULY 06: Houses lie submerged in mud after a landslide caused by torrential rain, on July 6, 2020 in Ashikita, Japan. Around 37 people are believed to be dead and many missing after unprecedented torrential rain fell in Kumamoto prefecture causing widespread flooding and landslides. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Rescue workers search for missing people at a landslide site caused by heavy rain in Tsunagi, Kumamoto prefecture on July 6, 2020. - Torrential rain hampered the efforts of tens of thousands of rescue workers in southwestern Japan as they hunted for survivors from deadly floods and landslides, with more downpours forecast. (Photo by STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT (Photo by STR/JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images)
A street is covered by debris and mud in a flooded affected area following torrential rain in Ashikita, Kumamoto prefecture on July 6, 2020. - At least 36 people are either confirmed or feared dead after record rains lashed areas of western Japan, causing rivers to break banks and flooding low-lying regions. (Photo by STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT (Photo by STR/JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images)
A damaged road is seen in a flooded affected area following torrential rain in Ashikita, Kumamoto prefecture on July 6, 2020. - At least 36 people are either confirmed or feared dead after record rains lashed areas of western Japan, causing rivers to break banks and flooding low-lying regions. (Photo by STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT (Photo by STR/JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images)
HITOYOSHI, JAPAN - JULY 05: A rail line lies upturned after being submerged by floodwater after the nearby Kuma River burst its banks, on July 5, 2020 in Hitoyoshi, Japan. Around 16 people are believed to be dead and 9 missing after unprecedented torrential rain fell in Kumamoto prefecture causing widespread flooding and landslides. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
HITOYOSHI, JAPAN - JULY 05: A parking area is covered in driftwood after the nearby Kuma River burst its banks, on July 5, 2020 in Hitoyoshi, Japan. Around 16 people are believed to be dead and 9 missing after unprecedented torrential rain fell in Kumamoto prefecture causing widespread flooding and landslides. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
HITOYOSHI, JAPAN - JULY 05: An overturned car is surrounded by driftwood after the nearby Kuma River burst its banks, on July 5, 2020 in Hitoyoshi, Japan. Around 16 people are believed to be dead and 9 missing after unprecedented torrential rain fell in Kumamoto prefecture causing widespread flooding and landslides. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
HITOYOSHI, JAPAN - JULY 05: Destroyed goods lie in bin bags as a man pulls the shutter down on a pharmacy that was flooded after the nearby Kuma River burst its banks, on July 5, 2020 in Hitoyoshi, Japan. Around 16 people are believed to be dead and 9 missing after unprecedented torrential rain fell in Kumamoto prefecture causing widespread flooding and landslides. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
HITOYOSHI, JAPAN - JULY 05: A car stands on its front after being upturned by flooding after the nearby Kuma River burst its banks, on July 5, 2020 in Hitoyoshi, Japan. Around 16 people are believed to be dead and 9 missing after unprecedented torrential rain fell in Kumamoto prefecture causing widespread flooding and landslides. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
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The old people's home was flooded in the island's central prefecture of Kumamoto. NHK did not give details.

"I urge all citizens to carefully follow the information provided by local authorities and stay alert to take actions to protect their own lives," Abe said at the start of a government task force meeting.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said 40,000 members of the Self-Defence Force were involved in rescue missions.

He added that evacuation centres were also working on preventing the spread of the coronavirus by distributing disinfectant and asking evacuees to self-distance.

The floods are Japan's worst natural disaster since Typhoon Hagibis killed about 90 people in October.

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