Japanese meteorologists are warning residents in Kumamoto, in southwestern Japan, to be on alert for more heavy rain after floods and mudslides left at least 34 dead and dozens either missing or trapped in inundated areas.
Forecasters say torrential downpours can be expected all day Monday and Tuesday.
Authorities in Kumamoto say many of the 200,000 residents ignored recommendations to evacuate because of the coronavirus, preferring to stay home and take their chances with the weather.
Heavy rains, of as much as 100 millimeters (4 inches) an hour, sent the Kuma River over its banks. Mudslides across many roads are making rescue efforts more difficult. Power lines are down, cutting off electricity and communications in villages across the prefecture.
Officials say many of the dead and missing are elderly residents of a nursing home near the river.
The Kyodo news agency says people aboard one of its helicopters that flew over the region could see flood victims waving towels standing next to the words “rice,” “water,” and SOS spelled out on the ground.
More than 40,000 soldiers, coast guard members and firefighters are helping with search and rescue operations.