Millions flee as Japan floods and landslides kill at least 85

Millions flee as Japan floods and landslides kill at least 85

Heavy rainfall is hammering southern Japan for the third day, prompting new disaster warnings on Kyushu and Shikoku islands as local media report the death toll has risen to 54 with 44 people missing.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said the rainfall was "historic" and warned more rain was set to batter already saturated parts of the nation through Sunday.

There have been no reported South African casualties among the at least 48 people who have been killed by flash floods and landslides in Japan following torrential downpours which started on Thursday.

At a meeting with ministers, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe directed them to "prioritise lifesaving and send rescue crews without delay", according to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.

In Seiyo in Ehime Prefecture, five people were confirmed dead due to the torrential rain, including people swept away in a auto.

Throughout the hard hit areas, rivers swelled and parked cars sat in pools of water.

Television footage showed a massive rescue operation, with 2,310 rescued in the city by evening, according to NHK, while search-and-rescue teams looked for others. "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.

Almost 2 million people have been asked to evacuate the affected areas.

Many severe warnings have been lifted as the rains ease, aiding rescue efforts.

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Some people fled to rooftops and balconies and waved at hovering rescue helicopters. The city of Kurashiki and the Hiroshima prefecture are among the affected areas.

Okayama prefecture said a man caught in a landslide died, and six others were missing.

A woman who was reported as missing after getting trapped in her auto was found but was pronounced dead, Kyodo news service reported.

Residents look at a flooded road in Hiroshima on July 7, 2018.

A 52-year-old woman in Kyoto was found dead by a river on Friday, while in neighbouring Hyogo prefecture a construction worker was swept away by flood waters and died.

Japan's Self-Defense forces rescue people by boats from Mabi Memorial Hospital, which was isolated after flood damage.

Over 50,000 rescue workers, police and military personnel have been mobilised to respond to the disaster, which has left entire villages submerged by flooding and left just the top of traffic lights visible above the rising waters.

If people did not have a special reason to travel to the affected regions, they should not go, but if they really had to, they should take care and remain aware of the weather situation, MOFA advised.

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