Japanese PM to meet flood evacuees as death toll rises to 179

Flooding and landslides have killed at least 50 people and left dozens missing in western areas of Japan

People prepared for risky search and cleanup efforts in southwestern Japan on Monday, where several days of heavy rainfall had set off flooding and landslides in a widespread area.

Hiroshima Prefecture is the worst-hit, with 44 people reported dead.

An elderly couple looks at a flooded area after heavy rain in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 8, 2018.

Forty-eight residents remain unaccounted-for in Hiroshima Prefecture, and 20 are still missing in Okayama Prefecture.

Some of the thousands of residents who had been evacuated, some rescued from their rooftops, began cleaning up after the rain stopped Monday.

Abe has promised that the government will provide financial support to residents affected by the disaster.

A quarter of flood-prone Mabi district of Kurashiki, sandwiched between two rivers, was inundated after a levee crumbled under the force of the torrent.

"My wife could not climb up the stairs, and nobody else was around to help us out", Katayama told national broadcaster NHK.

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The assessment of casualties has been hard because of the widespread area affected. The Associated Press reported that 10.4 inches of rain accumulated in its Kochi Prefecture in just three hours and that landslide warnings were issued for the entire island. "Some homes were smashed". Military paddle boats and helicopters brought people to the ground.

According to the newswire torrential downpours have caused flash flooding and landslides across central and western parts of the country, prompting evacuation orders for more than two million people. Thousands have evacuated their homes. At a major supermarket in town, employees sold bottled water and tea, cups of noodles and other preserved foods that survived the floods, while employees cleaned damaged merchandise, throwing items into dozens of plastic bags. Supplies such as water, blankets and cellphone chargers were provided.

"Today thunderstorms are expected in parts of the country, and even if it doesn't rain, there is a risk of landslides", said top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga.

Ryutaro Hirakawa, 18, said he fled his house after smelling a odd odour coming from the ground, a sign of a landslide.

"I'm a secondhand book seller", Ono said. Another nine are missing. "In front of our house had become a river, and was making a huge noise", he said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who had cancelled a planned trip to Europe and the Middle East this week to oversee the emergency response, will visit disaster-hit areas in the Okayama prefecture, Suga said.

"We'll cut through all the bureaucracy to secure the goods people need for their lives, to improve life in the evacuation centers - such as air conditioners as the hot days continue - and then secure temporary housing and the other things people need to rebuild their lives", he said.

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