155 confirmed dead as Japan searches for missing

Also, potentially contributing to the high death toll is not just the number of landslides - the land ministry said there were landslides at 448 locations in 29 of Japan's 47 prefectures as a result of the torrential rain - but their contents.

Search-and-rescue operations are continuing after floods and landslides caused by the rains, and local media said several dozen people were still missing in Japan's deadliest weather-related disaster in over three decades.

Most of the deaths have occurred in Hiroshima prefecture, which has been hit by torrential rain since Thursday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the flood-ravaged region, promising that his government would do whatever it could to bring a return to normalcy.

A damaged auto is seen in floodwater on July 10, 2018 in Kurashiki, Japan.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said more than 50 people were still unaccounted for as of Tuesday afternoon, majority in the hardest-hit Hiroshima area.

A man makes his way in a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018.

More than 50,000 rescuers have been dispatched across a wide swathe of south-western and western Japan. His wife and children took shelter in the second floor of their home, while the store filled up with water.

The telecommunication firms with coverage in the devastated areas said that severe downpours damaged communication cables and other key infrastructure, severely handicapping their services.

"The area became an ocean", 82-year-old resident Nobue Kakumoto told AFPon Sunday, surveying the scene.

"Human beings have a so-called normalcy bias, meaning people try not to evacuate, ignoring negative information", said Hirotada Hirose, a disaster management expert.

The intensifying heat was also contributing to unsettled weather conditions likely to lead to thunderstorms later on Wednesday, with authorities warning new landslides could easily be set off on mountainsides saturated with water.

Rain tapered off across the western region on Monday to reveal blue skies and a scorching sun that pushed temperatures well above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), fuelling fears of heat-stroke in areas cut off from power or water.

After observing the damage from a helicopter flying over Okayama, one of the hardest-hit areas, Abe visited a crowded evacuation center.

Suga said earlier the government was spending $18 million (2 billion yen) to hasten deliveries of supplies and other support for evacuation centres and residents.

He says the United Nations chief "commended the government's efforts to help people affected and expressed his admiration for the domestic search and rescue teams helping those in need".

  • Carolyn Briggs