OSAKA – The death toll from torrential rains in western Japan reached 126 on Monday, and 86 people were still missing after massive flooding and landslides destroyed homes and displaced tens of thousands of people.
As of late Monday, 47 deaths were reported in Hiroshima Prefecture, followed by 36 in Okayama and 25 in Ehime.
Rescue operations by Self-Defense Forces personnel and others continued in disaster-hit areas, while the Meteorological Agency warned that landslides and flooding continue to pose a danger.
The number of casualties is expected to rise further as officials assess the damage in affected areas. Many people are believed to be stranded in their homes where roads have been cut off by the flooding.
As of Monday evening, around 11,000 people were staying in evacuation centers in 15 prefectures, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency. At one point, evacuation orders or advisories were issued for up to 6.3 million people, but the number later dropped to 1.8 million in 14 prefectures.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a meeting of a special disaster response unit that the number of personnel helping out had been boosted to 73,000 and that they were “putting in utmost efforts to save lives.”
In Okayama Prefecture, more than 1,000 people were temporarily trapped on the roofs of buildings that had been submerged by floods following the bursting of three dikes along the nearby Oda River. Most of them were rescued by boats or helicopters.
In the Mabicho area in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, about 1,200 hectares, or one-third of the district, was submerged. About 4,600 homes were inundated in the area, displacing about 3,000 to 5,000 residents.
All patients and staff stranded in a hospital in Mabicho were rescued early Monday.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism mobilized pumper trucks to drain the inundated area, but it is likely to take about two weeks to complete the drainage.
In neighboring Hiroshima Prefecture, one of 12 people who went missing after being engulfed by landslides in the town of Kumano was found dead.
The body of a 3-year-old girl was discovered in the city of Fukuyama after she was washed away from her home following the collapse of a reservoir.
Casualties were reported in Yamaguchi, Kyoto, Gifu, Shiga, Hyogo, Kochi, Fukuoka and Kagoshima prefectures.
About 267,000 homes had suffered water outages in 11 prefectures as of Sunday. Roads were also damaged and flooded across the region and many railway sections remain disrupted.
According to the transport ministry, 13 railroad operators were suspending services on 37 routes in western Japan and elsewhere.
Abe on Monday canceled a planned trip to Europe and the Middle East as the government stepped up rescue operations.
Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, met with the prime minister at his office and quoted Abe as saying he had “no choice but to cancel” the overseas trip.
Abe was arranging visits to areas hit hard by the massive flooding and landslides that began last Thursday, government sources said.