• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet decided Tuesday to use ¥2.2 billion from the nation's reserve funds for fiscal 2020 to support areas hard hit by torrential rain and flooding this month.

The government will use the emergency money to help mainly disaster-affected small businesses as well as the agricultural, forestry and fisheries industries in Kyushu, including Kumamoto Prefecture where more than 60 people have died, and other areas, officials said.

Finance Minister Taro Aso told a press conference after the Cabinet approval that the money would be used to deliver "supplies essential to people's lives and livelihoods" such as water, food and emergency cardboard beds to ad hoc shelters, and face masks, without waiting for local municipalities to request such help.

The torrential rain struck a wide area of the island of Kyushu as well as western and central regions for about a week from July 3, with the nationwide death toll topping 70 as of Tuesday, authorities said.

Abe instructed government officials on Monday to compile a rescue package worth more than ¥400 billion by the end of this month for devastated areas, after he visited Kumamoto Prefecture the same day.

To boost recovery, the Cabinet designated the downpours a special natural disaster, facilitating extensions for completing official procedures such as renewing business and driver's licenses.

In total, 61 municipalities in Kumamoto and five of the country's other 46 prefectures are set to benefit from the relief measures. In recent years, the government has taken similar measures for large-scale disasters such as heavy rain and flooding in western Japan in 2018, and last year's Typhoon Hagibis.

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