The Japanese defence force had to airlift supplies to people stranded by flooding and mudslides. (Kyodo/Reuters)

Thousands of people in southern Japan remained cut off Sunday by floods and mudslides triggered by torrential rains that have killed at least 26 people, local authorities said.   

Evacuation orders issued a day earlier for a quarter of a million people were lifted in most areas Sunday as the rains subsided, allowing many people to return home. But thousands remained cut off by landslides or fallen trees that blocked roads in mountainous areas.   

More than 3,000 people were left stranded in Yame, in Fukuoka Prefecture in southwestern Japan, where roads were cut off to seven districts, the Kyodo news agency reported, citing local authorities. The Japanese military airlifted food by helicopters to stranded districts.   

Local officials raised the death toll from the torrential rains in the northern parts of the Kyushu region to 26, while six people remain missing in Kumamoto, Oita and Fukuoka prefectures, Kyodo reported. Most of the victims were in their 70s and 80s.

In Yame, a man died after being caught in a landslide, while another man died in Yanagawa, also in Fukuoka, after being retrieved from a car at an irrigation channel floodgate, according to local authorities, Kyodo reported.   

In Kyoto Prefecture, in western Japan, rain falling at up to 90 millimetres an hour flooded about 100 houses each in Kameoka and Kyoto, Japan's old capital, Kyodo reported.   

The Japan Meteorological Agency said that the worst was over, but predicted more rain and thunderstorms in some areas through Monday.

Earlier in the day, the Japanese military airlift supplies to thousands of people cut off in mountain areas by floods in the southern island of Kyushu. The emergency operations were concentrated in the northwest of the island where more than 5,000 people were stranded after roads were washed away. Rescue helicopters took patients and the elderly to hospital.