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More heavy rains in Japan raises flooding death toll close to 60

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Pounding rain that already caused deadly floods in southern Japan was moving northeast Wednesday, battering large areas of Japan’s main island, swelling more rivers, triggering mudslides and destroying houses and roads. At least 58 people have died in several days of flooding.

By Wednesday morning, parts of Nagano and Gifu in central Japan were flooded by massive downpours.

Footage on NHK television showed a swollen river gouging into the embankment, destroying a highway, while in the city of Gero, the rising river was flowing just below a bridge.

In a mountainous town of Takayama, several houses were hit by a mudslide, their residents all safely rescued.

In Kagoshima, a pickup truck was hit by a mudslide and fell into the ocean, but the driver was airlifted out with a head injury, according to Fuji Television. In another town in Oita, two brothers in the 80s were dug up alive by rescuers after a mudslide smashed into their hillside house, NHK said.

As of Wednesday morning, the death toll from the heavy rains starting over the weekend had risen to 58, most of them from the hardest-hit Kumamoto prefecture. Four others were found in Fukuoka, another prefecture on Kyushu, Japan’s third-largest island.

Across the country, about 3.6 million people were advised to evacuate, although evacuation is not mandatory and the number of people who actually took shelter was not provided.

Rain subsided by Wednesday afternoon in many areas, where residents were busy cleaning up their homes and work places.

In Gero, a man washed down mud at the entrance of his riverside house despite the evacuation advisory. “I was told to run away and my neighbors all went, but I stayed,” he said. “I didn’t want my house to be washed away in my absence.”

In Oita, teachers at a nursery school were wiping the floor and drying the wet furniture. “I hope we can return to normal life as soon as possible,” Principal Yuko Kitaguchi told NHK.

Though the rains were causing fresh flooding threats in central Japan, flooding was still affecting the southern region. And search and rescue operations continued in Kumamoto, where 14 people are still missing.

Tens of thousands of army troops, police and other rescue workers mobilized from around the country to assist, and the rescue operations have been hampered by the rains, flooding, mudslides and disrupted communications.

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