Japan floods
© AP/Kyodo News
The Japan Meteorological Agency downgraded its alert from the highest level it had initially posted to warn against floods.
Heavy rain in southern Japan has triggered flooding and mudslides, leaving at least two presumed dead, about 10 missing and dozens stranded on rooftops waiting to be rescued, officials say.

More than 75,000 residents in the southern prefectures of Kumamoto and Kagoshima were asked to evacuate on Saturday following pounding rains overnight.

NHK television footage showed large areas of Hitoyoshi town in Kumamoto inundated in muddy waters that gushed out from the Kuma River.

Many cars were submerged up to their windows.

Mudslides smashed into houses and floodwaters carried trunks from uprooted trees.

Several people were standing atop a convenience store as they waited for rescuers.

"I smelled mud, and the whole area was vibrating with river water. I've never experienced anything like this," a man in a shelter in Yatsushiro city, western Kumamoto, told NHK TV.

He said he fled early fearing a disaster.

In the Tsunagimachi district, two of three people buried underneath mudslides were pulled out without vital signs, Kumamoto prefectural crisis management official Takafumi Kobori said.

Rescuers were still searching for the third person.

In another badly flooded town of Ashikita, six people were unaccounted for and a seventh was seriously injured, Kumamoto officials said.

In the mountainous village of Kuma, residents stranded at their homes were being airlifted by a rescue helicopter.

Flooding also cut off power and communication lines leaving about 8,000 homes in Kumamoto and neighbouring Kagoshima without electricity, according to the Kyushu Electric Power Company.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set up a task force, vowing to do utmost to rescue the missing.

Mr Abe said Japan sent thousands of troops to join rescue operations on the southern island of Kyushu.
"The heavy rainfall is likely to continue until Sunday and people in the area are required to be on the maximum alert," Abe said.
He said as many as 10,000 members of Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) would be dispatched to the region.

Kumamoto Governor Ikuo Kabashima also said he requested help from the SDF.

More than 100 appeals for rescue to local authorities could not be immediately responded to, NHK said.

However, Japan's Meteorological Agency downgraded its alert from the highest level it had initially posted to warn against floods and landslides triggered by the rain "never seen" before in the region, the broadcaster added.