| 09.07,18. 03:36 PM |
Japan flooding rescue efforts ramp up as death toll hits 100
Risky search and clean-up efforts are gathering momentum in south-western Japan, where flooding and landslides caused by several days of heavy rain have left at least 100 people dead and 58 more missing.
Evacuation orders are in place for nearly 2 million people and landslide warnings have been issued in many prefectures.
Some 54,000 rescuers from the military, police and fire departments have been dispatched across a wide swathe of western and south-western Japan.
In the hard-hit west, emergency services and military personnel used helicopters and boats to rescue people from swollen rivers and buildings, including a hospital.
Some residents in Hiroshima prefecture said they were caught off guard by the torrential rain, which began on Friday and worsened over the weekend.
Rivers overflowed, turning towns into lakes and leaving dozens of people stranded on rooftops.
In Hiroshima, water streamed through a residential area, strewn with fallen telephone poles, uprooted trees and mud.
Some homes were destroyed, while others were tilting precariously.
"It gives me a chill thinking what could have happened," said Eiko Yamane.
"Hiroshima prefecture is normally blessed with mild weather and has few natural disasters so people here have never experienced a situation like this.
"I guess they're in a panic."
Counting the casualties has been difficult because of the large size of the area affected by the rainfall, flooding and landslides.
The Japanese Government said 100 people were dead or presumed dead, while Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported floodwaters had forced several million people from their homes.
Another 58 people were missing, NHK said, with more rain set to hit some areas for at least another day.
Authorities fear the toll will continue to rise as rescuers reach difficult-to-access areas.
"There are still many people missing and others in need of help, we are working against time," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters.
"The rescue teams are doing their utmost."
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said one area in Kochi prefecture had recorded 263mm of rain in three hours, the highest since such records started in 1976.
"This is a situation of extreme danger," an official at the JMA told a news conference.
Kochi prefecture, on Shikoku, issued landslide warnings across nearly the entire island.
The Japanese Government set up an emergency office over the weekend, designed for crises such as major earthquakes.