The Togetsu bridge on the Katsura river in Kyoto during heavy rains in western Japan on July 6, 2018. The country's meteorological agency has warned of more to come. Photo: AFP/JIJI PRESS

Amid reports of dead and missing, some 1.2 million Japanese were advised to  evacuate their homes as monsoon downpours continued to pound the island nation Friday.

About 168,000 people were ordered from their homes in nine prefectures, due to the risk of landslides and flooding, and 1.2 million more were advised to leave as of Friday morning, news agencies in Japan reported.

The culprit is unusually heavy seasonal rains, which the Japanese Meteorological Agency has dubbed “historic.”

At least two people have been killed, one when he was sucked down a drainage pipe, and another, an elderly woman, who was toppled by a gust of wind, news agencies reported. Several people are missing, including one whose car was swept away in the early morning hours, national television said. Others have been dug out by authorities after they were buried alive by landslides.

The tourist heritage site and ancient capital of Kyoto is particularly at risk: authorities have closed off some bridges and waterside promenades as rivers swelled. Japan’s Self Defense Forces dispatched 180 personnel and 50 vehicles to the city. Fukuoka’s government has also requested a military deployment to undertake disaster relief efforts.

Bullet train services were partially halted from Thursday night due to heavy rain and the risk of mud flowing onto railway tracks in some areas, though West Japan Railway Co resumed operations on Friday morning, according to Kyoto News Agency.

And there may be worse to come. The Japan Meteorological Agency forecasts record amounts of rain in the country through Sunday, warning of flooding, mudslides and lightning strikes, Kyoto reported. Atmospheric conditions have become very unstable as warm and damp air is flowing into a seasonal front, potentially causing gusts and tornadoes, the agency said.

Particularly heavy rain of up to 80 millimeters per hour with lightning is forecast for Saturday. And in the 24-hour period through to 6am on Saturday, 400mm of rain is forecast in the Shikoku region, 300mm in the Kanto-Koshin, Tokai, northern Kyushu regions and 250mm in the Kinki, Chugoku and southern Kyushu regions, Kyoto reported.

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