Japan floods death toll tops 150 as rescuers comb through debris for survivors

The death toll in flooding and landslides in 12 prefectures in western Japan has risen to 157, with at least 80 more people missing and rescue teams combing through shattered towns in search of survivors.

The prefectures of Hiroshima and Okayama have been the worst affected by flooding and landslips, triggered by torrential rains on Friday and Saturday.

Several towns in the region have reported more than 23 inches of rain in the space of 18 hours, causing rivers to burst their banks, inundating low-lying areas and destabilising hillsides.  The town of Umaji, in Kochi Prefecture, recorded more than 47 inches of rain in the space of 72 hours. 

Landslides have caused devastation in mountain communities, destroying homes, roads and railways. At the height of the crisis, two million people were told to evacuate their homes and take shelter in community centres, schools and hospitals. 

Rescue workers, pictured here in Mabi, Okayama, are continuing to search for survivors four days after one of Japan's worst weather-related disasters for decadesCredit:
Martin Bureau/AFP

Television footage has shown homes being crushed or washed away by flood water and streets knee-deep in mud from landslides.  Rescue teams from the army and the fire brigade are searching the rubble and debris for survivors or more victims, although they have not been able to reach some of the more isolated communities and are hampered by a lack of heavy lifting equipment. Helicopters have also been shown plucking survivors from trees and rooftops. 

Areas affected

The death toll is the highest caused by rainfall on more than three decades.  An estimated 347 homes have been completely destroyed and nearly 10,000 more flooded. Electricity and water supplies to thousands more homes have been cut off and dozens of companies have been forced to halt production. 

People inspect their homes in the flood-hit area of Mabi, Okayama. Residents in mountainous areas have been warned not to return until it can be guaranteed that the risk of further landslides has abatedCredit:
Martin Bureau/AFP

Residents of mountainous regions are being warned not to return to their homes until authorities can confirm that hillsides are no longer in danger of collapsing.  

Among the victims are the wife, two children and mother-in-law of one man from Kumano in Hiroshima Prefecture, Koji Tsunomori, 54. 

Mr Tsunomori was working  when the family home was crushed by a landslide. The body of Mr Tsunomori’s wife, Nana, has been recovered, although their daughter, 13-year-old Minori, and Kenta, aged 2, are still missing.

Hiroko Aoki, Nana Tsunomori’s mother, is also unaccounted for. 

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