• JIJI, Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday visited areas in Hiroshima Prefecture devastated by this month’s mudslides and floods in western Japan.

He visited evacuation centers in Mihara and the town of Saka to encourage people who took refuge there.

In the city of Hiroshima, he offered a silent prayer in Aki Ward for two police officers who lost their lives.

The death toll stood at 218 as of Friday, the worst for a rain disaster since the Heisei Era began in 1989.

Government data show damage to the agricultural, forestry and fisheries industries is growing from the torrential rains. Losses were estimated at ¥64.8 billion ($576 million) in 35 of the 47 prefectures as of Thursday, up from ¥7.2 billion nine days earlier, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said Friday.

The ministry said the losses could eventually top those tallied for similar rain disasters in recent years: ¥126.5 billion in 2012 and ¥112.2 billion last year, both in northern Kyushu.

Devastation of forests accounted for the largest chunk at ¥27.1 billion, beginning on June 28, when a seasonal rain front was stagnating near Japan.

Damage to agricultural facilities came in second at ¥13.6 billion, followed by ¥10.8 billion in damage to forest roads and relevant facilities.

Damage to farmlands was confirmed at more than 6,400 locations, costing ¥8.5 billion.

Damage to farm products such as fruit, vegetables and livestock reached ¥2.8 billion.

In Ehime, another hard-hit prefecture, producers of mandarin oranges, one of its specialties, reported serious damage.

Prices for green onions and other vegetables started rising at a wholesale market in Osaka after the torrential rains.

Damage estimated to the fisheries sector meanwhile totaled ¥790 million, including costs for removing driftwood from ports.

In an attempt to speed up reconstruction efforts, the government has decided on its first policy package, which includes financing via five-year, interest-free loans for the industries affected.

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