More than 170 dead in Japan's worst flooding in decades

Landslide warnings have been issued in over a quarter of the nation's prefectures

Landslide warnings have been issued in over a quarter of the nation's prefectures

On Thursday, a large rain trough swept over the region, bringing heavy rainfall that triggered flash flooding and landslides across 15 prefectures - a large-scale disaster not seen since 1982. The prefectures of Hiroshima, including the densely populated eponymous city, and Ehime have been hit the hardest, yet the disaster has also ravaged nine other areas. Floodwaters have yet to recede, however, prompting massive rescue efforts as police, fire departments, first responders, and soldiers attempt to locate people trapped in debris and collect those that have been stranded on rooftops and along impassable roads.

83 people have died since Thursday and 57 others are unaccounted for. At one point during the flooding, evacuation orders were given for almost 6 million people across 19 prefectures.

Authorities warned landslides could strike even after the rain subsides as the calamity shaped up to potentially be the worst in decades.

"No water, food, nothing gets here", Ichiro Tanabe, a 73-year-old resident in the neighbouring port city of Kure, told the Mainichi newspaper.

To safeguard their workers, some major businesses in the disaster-hit regions have halted production, including at Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corp.

In neighbouring Okayama prefecture, rescue workers flew in helicopters over areas that are still submerged and otherwise unreachable, looking for signs of life.

Tens of thousands of rescue workers and volunteers also continued to search for people still missing.

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More than 70,000 rescue workers, including the fire service and the army, are now involved in relief efforts. A series of quakes in Kumamoto in 2016 led to the deaths of more than 200 people, according to the Japanese Red Cross Society.

According to the BBC, as of Sunday around 3 million people had been advised to leave their homes and about 1.5 million ordered to do so.

The monsoon rains of recent days have been described as "historic" in terms of their their weight and devastation.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres offered his condolences and commended Japan's response in a letter to Abe, according to Guterres' spokesman Stéphane Dujarric. "It's a race against time", Abe told ministers on Sunday morning. His wife, who stayed behind and let her husband flee, was among more than 20 people who were found dead in the city, where a river dike collapsed.

Japan's top government spokesperson Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press briefing that the government is likely to tap into reserve funds of about 2 billion yen (18 million USA dollars) to help deal with the disaster's aftereffects.

Pope Francis is praying for the victims of Japan's flooding and is encouraging civil authorities involved in search and rescue operations.

Water and other relief supplies were scarce in some of the other disaster-hit areas.

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