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3 Dead in Japan Amid Heavy Rains

September 12, 2000

TOKYO (AP) _ Torrential rains hit central Japan on Tuesday, leaving three people dead and driving hundreds of thousands from their homes.

The dead included a 53-year-old firefighter who fell into a flooded roadside ditch and a 49-year-old man who was buried by mudslides, said Tadanobu Horiguchi, an official with the industrial city of Nagoya, 165 miles west of Tokyo. Two other people were missing.

Horiguchi said Nagoya authorities ordered about 365,000 people to evacuate after two rivers jumped their banks.

``This flooding is unprecedented in our city,″ said Horiguchi. ``I’ve never seen such huge rainfalls in such a short period of time,″ he said.

Rainfall totaling 23 inches was recorded in Tokai, near Nagoya, over the past 24-hour period, the local observatory said.

Television footage showed residents wading waist-deep in muddy water and children navigating flooded streets in rubber life-savers.

Nearly 3,000 were flooded above the floor level, said National Fire Agency official Masahiro Sekine.

Bullet train services were interrupted, and about 50,000 passengers were forced to sleep overnight in trains that grinded to a halt, national broadcaster NHK reported.

Major highways in central Japan were closed to traffic, said NHK, which interrupted regular programming to report on the rains.

Officials in central Japan were difficult to contact because of the volume of calls to police and government offices.

Meanwhile, more violent weather was creeping toward Japan, as typhoon Saomai approached the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa packing winds of 100 mph.

Saomai, located 60 miles east of the Okinawa capital of Naha, was already lashing the island with powerful winds.

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