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  • Japan Self-Defense Force soldiers rescue people from a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki. July 8, 2018

    Japan Self-Defense Force soldiers rescue people from a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki. July 8, 2018 | Photo: Reuters

Published 8 July 2018

Nonstop torrential downpours in Japan leave 81 dead, over 50 missing and millions without a home. Prime Minister Abe: 'We are working against time.'

Torrential rains and massive mudslides in western Japan have left 81 people dead and 2 million displaced, according to NBC.

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Historic heavy rains began on Thursday in several southwest provinces causing major landslides that have killed 81 people so far and left 58 missing, according to NHK.

Since rains began, 93 cities and towns in the country’s southwest region have reported record rainfall, according to NPR.

"This is a situation of extreme danger," said an official at the Japanese Meteorological Agency.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters on Sunday morning, "There are still many people missing and others in need of help, we are working against time."

The city of Hiroshima has reported the most killed from landslides caused by the rains and overflowing rivers in the region.

The body of a three-year-old girl was found in a Hiroshima home devastated by a landslide.

"It's very painful," said one elderly man observing nearby. "I have a granddaughter the same age. If it were her, I wouldn't be able to stop crying."

Among the 2,310 people saved by authorities in the flooded city of Kurashiki, located in the Hiroshima province, were 170 patients and staff at the Mabi Memorial Hospital in Kurashiki. Japan's Self Defense Forces made the rescue via helicopters and motorized rafts that traversed the city’s flood-filled streets to make the save.

"I'm most grateful to the rescuers," said Shigeyuki Asano, a 79-year-old patient who spent the previous night without electricity or water. "I feel so relieved that I am now liberated from such a bad-smelling, dark place." As of Sunday 80 were still stranded at the small hospital.

Kyoto has also suffered from ceaseless torrential downpours and flooding.  

Japan's government has set up an emergency management center at the prime minister's office. Approximately 54,000 military, police and fire department rescuers from throughout Japan have been dispatched to the country’s southwest region to take part in the major rescue effort.

Though emergency warnings have been lifted for 11 southwest provinces, heavy rain and landslide advisories remain in effect. Many cities are still without running water and electricity. Some residents in this region are still stranded on their rooftops waiting to be rescued by relief agency helicopters dispatched for this weather emergency. State authorities say this is Japan’s worst natural disaster in decades.

The town of Motoyama, located on Shikoku island, registered 583mm of rainfall between Friday and Saturday. More rain is predicted over the next few days.

The rains began late last week in the aftermath of a typhoon that dissipated off of Japan's coast. 

Prime Minister Abe said in a Saturday night Facebook alert: "There are concerns that further damage may occur through, for example, the loosening of the ground in various locations because of the extended period of rain. … I instructed all relevant ministries and agencies to be at their highest level of vigilance in order to prevent damage from increasing and to make their greatest possible efforts to conduct search and rescue operations that respond nimbly to changes in the situation."


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