Abe visiting flood-hit western Japan as deaths reach 176

Abe visiting flood-hit western Japan as deaths reach 176

While Monday's clearer weather allowed rescuers to target the more than 60 people still unaccounted for, food and water are in short supply in some of the more remote affected areas.

The disaster is the deadliest rain-related crisis in Japan since 2014, when at least 74 people were killed in landslides caused by torrential downpours in the Hiroshima region.

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

Images from Saka, a small town on the southern coast of Hiroshima Prefecture, show cars buried in mud. Many people started to return and check on their homes and begin cleanup after the rain stopped Monday.

Suga said earlier the government was spending 2 billion yen (NZ$26 million) to hasten deliveries of supplies and other support for evacuation centres and residents.

A resident walks across scattered debris in a flood hit area in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture.

"My wife could not climb up the stairs, and nobody else was around to help us out", Katayama told national broadcaster NHK.

That puts many people's homes in the path of potential landslides and flooding.

Policemen conduct a search operation for missing people in Kumano Town, Hiroshima Prefecture.

Assessment of the casualties was slowed by the scale of the area affected.

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Though continuous rain had ended, officials warned against sudden showers and thunderstorms as well as the risk of further landslides on steep mountainsides saturated over the weekend.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said as much as 10 centimetres of rain per hour fell on large parts of south-western Japan.

Some homes were smashed, while others were tilting precariously. Rivers overflowed, turning towns into lakes, leaving dozens of people stranded on rooftops.

With temperatures of 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher in the devastated areas in Okayama and Hiroshima prefectures, attention turned to preventing heat-stroke among rescue workers and in evacuation centers where thousands of people have sought shelter. Thousands have evacuated their homes. Hundreds of homes have been damaged.

Residents sheltering at the Yano school were provided with water, blankets and cellphone chargers.

The rain has relented but the country is still struggling to deal with the extensive damage left in its wake.

Ryutaro Hirakawa, 18, said he fled his house after smelling a unusual odour coming from the ground, a sign of a landslide.

"I've never experienced anything like this is my life, and I've lived for more than 70 years", said Hitoko Asano, aged 71.

Another resident, 82-year-old Saburo Yokoyama, said he was horrified when he saw floodwater flowing just outside his house.

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