Widespread flooding and landslides in north-east Japan have forced more than 90,000 people to abandon their homes.
The city of Joso, north of the capital, Tokyo, was hit by a wall of water after the Kinugawa River burst its banks. Helicopter rescue teams have been plucking people from rooftops.
One person has been reported missing in the region and at least 12 are injured.
The rains come a day after a tropical storm brought winds of up to 125km/h (78mph) to central Aichi prefecture.
“These heavy rains are unprecedented. We can say this is an abnormal situation and there is imminent serious danger,” the chief forecaster at the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), Takuya Deshimaru, said on Thursday.
The hardest-hit areas have been Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures. Japan’s Meteorological Agency had put both regions on its highest level of alert.
Television footage from Joso in Ibaraki showed people clinging to the rooftops before helicopter rescue teams winched them to safety.
Entire homes and cars were carried away on the torrent as the Kinugawa River burst its banks after two days of heavy rainfall.
In Tochigi, more than 500mm (19 inches) of rain fell in 24 hours in places, according to local public broadcaster NHK, which said that was about double what normally falls there throughout the whole of September.
Parts of central Tochigi have seen almost 60cm of rain since Monday evening, breaking records.
Many other areas of eastern and north-eastern Japan have also been issued weather warnings, including Fukushima prefecture, home to the still-damaged nuclear plant hit in 2011’s earthquake and tsunami.
The downpour overwhelmed the site’s drainage pumps, a spokesman for operator Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said. Huge volumes of water, used to cool the plant’s crippled reactors, are being stored at the site.
Landslides and flooding
The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said 15 people had been injured across Japan. Two were elderly women seriously injured after being knocked over by strong winds.
Local media reported one person missing after a landslide hit a house in Kanuma, Tochigi prefecture.
Some areas had power cuts and transport was disrupted, with many air and train services cancelled or delayed. Some roads were also closed.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the authorities were doing their best.
“The government will stand united and do its best to deal with the disaster… by putting its highest priority on people’s lives,” he told reporters.
Last month, powerful Typhoon Goni hit Japan’s southernmost main island of Kyushu, killing at least one person and injuring 70 others.
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