Torrential rains kill at least 88 in Japan

Torrential rains kill at least 88 in Japan.jpg

Rescue workers aboard boats look for survivors in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, on July 8, 2018, following torrential rains that hit a wide area of western Japan. (Kyodo via AP Images)

The death toll from torrential rain and landslides in western Japan has risen to 88 people, with dozens still missing after the rescue of more than 2,000 stranded in the city of Kurashiki.

Evacuation orders are in place for nearly two million people and landslide warnings have been issued in many prefectures.

In hard-hit western Japan, emergency services and military personnel used helicopters and boats to rescue people from swollen rivers and buildings, including a hospital, on Sunday.

Scores of staff and patients were rescued from the isolated Mabi Memorial Hospital in boats rowed by members of Japan's Self Defence Forces.

A city official said late on Sunday that 170 patients and staff had been evacuated, while public broadcaster NHK later said about 80 people were still stranded.

"I'm most grateful to the rescuers," Shigeyuki Asano, a 79-year-old patient who spent a night without electricity or water, said.

"I feel so relieved that I am now liberated from such a bad-smelling, dark place."

Kurashiki, with a population of just under 500,000, was among the hardest hit by rains that pounded many parts of western Japan, with the death toll exceeding the 77 killed in heavy rains and landslides in 2014 and the highest since a typhoon that killed 98 people in 2004.

Television footage showed a massive rescue operation, with 2,310 rescued in the city by evening, according to NHK, while search-and-rescue teams looked for others.

The overall death toll from the rains in Japan rose to at least 88 after floodwaters forced several million people from their homes, NHK reported early on Monday.

An additional 58 were missing, NHK said, and more rain was set to hit some areas for at least another day.

The rain set off landslides and flooded rivers, trapping many people in their houses or on rooftops.

"This is a situation of extreme danger," an official at the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA), told a news conference.

Japan's government set up an emergency management centre at the prime minister's office and some 54,000 rescuers from the military, police and fire departments were dispatched across a wide swath of western and southwestern Japan.

"There are still many people missing and others in need of help, we are working against time," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Sunday morning.

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