Death toll rises in Hiroshima following heavy rainfall

Death toll rises in Hiroshima following heavy rainfall

Pope Francis expressed his "heartfelt solidarity" with all those affected by the worst flood disaster to strike western Japan in 35 years and said he is praying "especially for the repose of the deceased, the healing of those injured and the consolation of all those who grieve".

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said an active seasonal rain front had been causing torrential rain in most eastern and western regions of Japan since Thursday.

While there are thousands of police, firefighters, and soldiers are taking part in search and rescue missions, the flooding and landslides are hindering the rescue operations. Consecutive heavy rain has affected more than 306,000 people from 24 counties in Jiangxi, causing 19,700 people to relocate and a direct economic loss of 410 million yuan (about 61 million United States dollars).

Search and rescue operations have intensified in disaster-hit areas, where 73,000 rescuers have been dispatched, said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday.

More than 1.6 million people were ordered to evacuate their homes, while 3.1 million were put on high alert and urged to do so.

"As far as we could see from the helicopter, no-one is now waving for help", a rescue worker from Kurashiki city told AFP.

And with many people stuck in modestly equipped shelters with few possessions, or living in damaged homes with no running water or electricity, the rising temperatures posed a new problem, authorities said.

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Rescue workers and troops have been struggling in the mud and water to save lives. A 58-year-old woman in Otsuki-machi, Kochi Prefecture also died.

Companies including Mazda Motor Corp., Daihatsu Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. kept work halted at factories as power and water supply in wide parts of Hiroshima and Okayama have been cut off.

According to the report evacuation orders remained in place for some 2 million people and another 2.3 million were advised to evacuate.

Japan monitors weather conditions and issues warnings early, but its dense population means every bit of usable land is built on in the mostly mountainous nation, leaving it prone to disasters.

Most of the deaths occurred in the Hiroshima prefecture, where hundreds of homes were damaged.

The rains crippled transportation networks, with bus and train services partly or completely shut down in 15 prefectures.

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