Torrential rains of an intensity not seen in decades caused severe damage across northern Kyushu.

Three days of driving rainstorms triggered landslides that caused multiple communities to be cut off and left many people unaccounted for.

People waiting to be rescued must be suffering from exhaustion.

Local fire departments, the Self-Defense Forces and local governments in affected areas need to make every possible effort to locate missing residents and rescue stranded ones.

Continued heavy rainfall and the risk of landslides, however, are hampering search and rescue operations.

The central government should marshal the capabilities of the appropriate ministries and agencies to shore up the efforts to save lives.

A complete picture of the damage caused by the torrential downpours is not yet clear. This alone speaks volumes about the scale of the disaster.

In the city of Asakura, Fukuoka Prefecture, where rainfall in just one day surpassed the city’s average total for July by 50 percent, communications networks have been disrupted, leaving some communities without access to necessary information.

Massive landslides have occurred in mountainous areas of the region. In the city of Hita, Oita Prefecture, a swollen river swept away a railway bridge.

Mountainous areas inhabited by elderly people seem to have especially hit hard.

Many residents in such areas are unable to flee to safety without assistance. More than 1,000 people have sought refuge in evacuation centers.

The prefectural governments of Fukuoka and Oita have sent officials to affected areas to operate evacuation centers and provide emergency relief. The local governments should work closely with the central government to ensure that evacuees quickly receive what they need.

The rainfall intensified after Typhoon No. 3, the first of the season to make landfall in Japan, passed through the Japanese archipelago.

The disaster was caused by a band of massive cumulonimbus towers known as a squall line, or a linear mesoscale convective system, which produces localized downpours.

In Asakura, an incredible 130 millimeters an hour of rainfall was recorded for a maximum 24-hour rainfall of 545 millimeters.

The priority in responding to the disaster should be, of course, on saving lives. But it will later be necessary to make a rigorous evaluation of the responses, focusing on such issues as whether evacuation advisories and orders were issued in a timely fashion and whether they were effectively communicated to local residents.

A similar meteorological phenomenon caused severe flooding and landslides in northern Kyushu in 2012, Hiroshima in 2014 and the Kanto and Tohoku regions in 2015.

It is difficult to predict such localized phenomena even for today’s state-of-the-art weather forecasting systems using supercomputers.

Scientists warn that climate change due to global warming will cause such extraordinary rainfalls more frequently in the coming years.

This kind of disaster could happen anywhere in Japan.

We all need to take steps in normal times to prepare for emergency situations that require quick actions to secure safety instead of waiting for evacuation orders.

Everybody needs to familiarize themselves with the geographical features of their own areas and figure out the best place to take refuge before a disaster strikes.

This month, the Japan Meteorological Agency started providing information about regional risks concerning river flooding and inundation with a color-coded map showing five degrees of risk.

We applaud the effort to provide more detailed information about flood risks.

But we should understand that such information can be helpful only if people use it effectively.

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 8