Japan floods and heavy rain leave 8 dead, dozens missing

Dozens dead and missing as 'historic rains' and floods hit Japan

Hundreds of thousands of people across a wide swathe of western and central Japan were evacuated from their homes today as torrential rains pounded the nation, flooding rivers, setting off landslides and leaving at least two people dead.

Evacuation orders or advisories were issued for many towns and villages in other parts of Kyoto Prefecture due to fears of mudslides caused by the record-breaking rainfall. Several more people were missing, including one whose vehicle was swept away as he delivered milk in the early morning hours, NHK national television said.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told his ministers to "make an all-out effort" to rescue victims, saying: "The situation is extremely serious".

Local authorities said a man in his late 50s has been pronounced dead after being found in an inundated river in Hiroshima Prefecture.

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.

Search-and-rescue operations are under way in affected areas, involving a total of some 48,000 police officers, firefighters and Self-Defense Forces personnel, according to the top government spokesman.

The Japan Meteorological Agency on Friday sounded an emergency alarm in some parts of Japan, heavily-hit by torrential rain, calling for the public to confirm their surroundings and ensure safety.

Hiroshima Prefecture was hit the hardest with numerous landslides that claimed 15 lives, local authorities said.

Video from Okayama showed brown water engulfing residential areas with some people fleeing to rooftops and balconies, trying to catch the attention of hovering rescue helicopters.

Also in Ehime, two elementary-school girls and their mother who got sucked into a mudslide were rescued but their hearts weren't beating, it said.

The government has deployed almost 50,000 troops, police and firefighters for rescue operations, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. Although the JMA subsequently lifted the warnings in four of the prefectures, the agency cautioned that heavy downpours could again hit later on July 7 or 8 even in areas where rain had previously eased, and urged people across the country to take caution.

Kyodo news service said one death was the result of a landslide in Hiroshima, which also set off a fire.

Still, many people in Japan tend to remain in their homes, even in mountainous areas, as such warnings are not compulsory evacuation orders.

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