Torrential rains blamed for deaths of dozens in southwest Japan

Torrential rains blamed for deaths of dozens in southwest Japan

Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the whereabouts of 92 other people were unknown, mostly in the southern area of Hiroshima prefecture.

"As far as we could see from the helicopter, no-one is now waving for help", a rescue worker from Kurashiki city told AFP.

More than 100 reports of casualties had been received, such as cars being swept away, he said. A lot of them were rescued by boat or helicopter. 'The rescue teams are doing their utmost'.

Japan's Meteorological Agency issued special weather warnings across four prefectures in the west of Japan's main island of Honshu, urging vigilance against landslides, rising rivers and strong wind amid what it called "historic" rains.

Authorities warned landslides could strike even after rain subsides as the calamity shaped up to be potentially the worst in decades. Public broadcaster NHK TV showed overturned cars on roads covered with mud. "If the water level drops low enough, they may be able to access hard-hit areas by road or on foot", a spokeswoman at the area's disaster control office said.

A man and his wife carrying their belongings walk past a devastated street during floods in Saka, Hiroshima prefecture.

Residents flee a flooded area in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture on Sunday.

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"There are still many people missing and others in need of help, we are working against time", Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Sunday morning. Some 38 houses were completely destroyed, while 21 housing units were partially damaged.

Emergency warnings for severe rain in 11 prefectures - the most since a new warning system was introduced in 2013 - had been lifted by evening, but advisories for heavy rain and landslides remained in effect in many areas.

Responding to the tragedy, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty tweeted, "Deeply saddened to hear of the lives lost due to heavy rains and flooding in Western Japan".

People prepared for risky search and cleanup efforts in southwestern Japan on Monday, where several days of heavy rainfall had set off flooding and landslides in a widespread area.

In the Mabi area of the city of Kurashiki in the western prefecture of Okayama, about 12 square kilometers or 27 percent of land area was submerged by water as the Odagawa River flooded when its banks were breached.

Intense rainfall triggered huge landslides and flash floods in Hiroshima, Okayama, Kyoto and other regions, while hampering rescue operations with dozens of people reportedly missing.

Information about the people at the municipal shelters is still sparse, while social media buzzes with photos and video of the disaster-stricken country.

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