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Flooding in Japan prompts evacuation directive for more than 1 million people

The Futami River is swollen due to heavy rain in Yatsushiro, Kumamoto Prefecture, southwestern Japan
The Futami River is swollen due to heavy rain in Yatsushiro, Kumamoto Prefecture, southwestern Japan, July 3, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. KYODO/REUTERS

Tokyo -- Japanese authorities on Wednesday directed more than 1 million residents in parts of the southern main island of Kyushu to evacuate to designated shelters as heavy rains batter the region, prompting fears of landslides and widespread flooding.

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said the directive was issued in three southern prefectures. Directives are stronger than advisories, but there are no penalties if people do not comply.

Heavy rain has continued in southern Japan since Friday, killing an elderly woman in a mudslide in Kagoshima. The rain also has flooded dozens of homes.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kotaro Nogami said 14,000 ground troops were standing by for emergency rescue and search operations if needed.

He urged residents to use caution and try to evacuate early "to protect your lives" rather than waiting until the last minute.

Local residenst take a rest at a shelter in evacuation centre as heavy rains threatened to trigger landslides and cause other damage, in Kagoshima, Japan
Local residents take a rest at a shelter in evacuation centre as heavy rains threatened to trigger landslides and cause other damage, in Kagoshima, Japan, July 3, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. KYODO/REUTERS

The agency said landslide warnings have been issued for parts of the three prefectures because rain is expected to intensify over the next few days.

The Meteorological Agency says up to 13 inches more rain is expected through Thursday.

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