Torrential rains kill at least 81 in western Japan

KURASHIKI, Japan, July 8 (Reuters) - The death toll from torrential rain and landslides in western Japan rose to 81 people on Sunday, with dozens still missing after more than 2,000, temporarily stranded in the city of Kurashiki, were rescued.

Evacuation orders were in place for nearly 2 million people and landslide warnings were 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.

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

RELATED: Torrential downpours cause chaos in Japan

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Torrential downpours cause chaos in Japan
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Torrential downpours cause chaos in Japan
Rescue workers are seen next to houses damaged by a landslide following heavy rain in Hiroshima, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 7, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Residents are rescued from a flooded area by Japan Self-Defense Force soldiers in Kurashiki, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 7, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
An aerial view shows local residents seen on the roof of submerged house at a flooded area as they wait for a rescue in Kurashiki, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 7, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Residents are rescued from a flooded area by Japan Self-Defense Force soldiers in Kurashiki, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 7, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
Residents are rescued from a flooded area by Japan Self-Defense Force soldiers in Kurashiki, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 7, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
A local resident is rescued from a flooded area in Kurashiki, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 7, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
Rescue workers are seen next to houses damaged by a landslide following heavy rain in Hiroshima, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 7, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
Derailed train caused by a landslide following heavy rain is seen in Karastu, southwestern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 7, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
Rescue workers are seen next to houses damaged by a landslide following heavy rain in Kitakyushu, southwestern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 6, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
A local resident watches Togetsu Bridge and swollen Katsura River, caused by a heavy rain, in Kyoto, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 6, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
A kimono-clad woman using a smartphone takes photos of swollen Kamo River, caused by a heavy rain, from Shijo Bridge in Kyoto, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 5, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
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. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
A Japan Self-Defense Force truck makes its way in a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
A woman stands in a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Local residents clean their belongings in a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Japan Self-Defense Force soldiers rescue people from a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
A woman sweeps her face as she makes her way in a flooded area at Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Rescue workers rest at Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
A van is submerged in a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
A gasoline stand is flooded by heavy rain at Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
A man checks a car in a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
A Japan Self-Defense Force soldier approaches to Mabi memorial hospital for rescue work in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
A car is submerged at a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Japan Self-Defense Force soldiers ride a boat during their rescue work at a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
School girls make their way in a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
A flooded area is seen after heavy rain in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 8, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
A broken road is seen after heavy rain in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 8, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
A helicopter and its crew rescue a person from a flooded area after heavy rain in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 8, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
A woman makes her way in a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Japan Self-Defense Force soldiers rescue people from a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
People carry their belongings on canoe in a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Japan Self-Defense Force soldiers rescue people from a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
A truck which was stranded by flood is seen in a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
A man makes his way in a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Japan Self-Defense Force soldiers rescue people from a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Japan Self-Defense Force soldiers rescue people from a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Japan Self-Defense Force soldiers rescue people from a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
A man makes his way on a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Japan Self-Defense Force soldiers rescue people from a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Women make their way through a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Japan Self-Defense Force soldiers help people getting out of a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Men make their way in a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Women make their way through a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
An elderly man in a wheelchair is rescued from a flooded area in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 8, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Japan Self-Defense Force soldiers carry a boat for their rescue work at a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Men make their way on a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
An overturned car remains on a street after heavy rain in Ozu, Ehime Prefecture, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 8, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Women make their way in a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Men make their way in a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Residents walk near damaged cars in a residential area in Hiroshima on July 8, 2018. - The death toll from record rains that have devastated parts of Japan rose Sunday to at least 57, officials said, as rescue workers and troops struggled in the mud and water to save lives. (Photo by STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Self-Defense Forces personnels remove stones scattered by debris flow in Hiroshima on July 8, 2018. - The death toll from record rains that have devastated parts of Japan rose Sunday to at least 57, officials said, as rescue workers and troops struggled in the mud and water to save lives. (Photo by STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A man gets home over a flooded river in Saka, Hiroshima prefecture on July 8, 2018. - Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned on July 8 of a 'race against time' to rescue flood victims as authorities issued new alerts over record rains that have killed at least 48 people. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
A man and his wife carrying their belongings walk past a devastated street during floods in Saka, Hiroshima prefecture on July 8, 2018. - Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned on July 8 of a 'race against time' to rescue flood victims as authorities issued new alerts over record rains that have killed at least 48 people. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
A man walks past a devastated street during floods in Saka, Hiroshima prefecture on July 8, 2018. - Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned on July 8 of a 'race against time' to rescue flood victims as authorities issued new alerts over record rains that have killed at least 48 people. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
A man pushes his scooter through a flooded street in Saka, Hiroshima prefecture on July 8, 2018. - Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned on July 8 of a 'race against time' to rescue flood victims as authorities issued new alerts over record rains that have killed at least 48 people. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture shows cars trapped in the mud after floods in Saka, Hiroshima prefecture on July 8, 2018. - Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned on July 8 of a 'race against time' to rescue flood victims as authorities issued new alerts over record rains that have killed at least 48 people. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
People use escavators to remove the mud after floods in Saka, Hiroshima prefecture on July 8, 2018. - Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned on July 8 of a 'race against time' to rescue flood victims as authorities issued new alerts over record rains that have killed at least 48 people. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture shows cars trapped in the mud after floods in Saka, Hiroshima prefecture on July 8, 2018. - Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned on July 8 of a 'race against time' to rescue flood victims as authorities issued new alerts over record rains that have killed at least 48 people. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
A man walks past a street in Saka, Hiroshima prefecture on July 8, 2018. - Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned on July 8 of a 'race against time' to rescue flood victims as authorities issued new alerts over record rains that have killed at least 48 people. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
Two women look at a flooded street in Saka, Hiroshima prefecture on July 8, 2018. - Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned on July 8 of a 'race against time' to rescue flood victims as authorities issued new alerts over record rains that have killed at least 48 people. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture shows a car trapped in the mud after floods in Saka, Hiroshima prefecture on July 8, 2018. - Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned on July 8 of a 'race against time' to rescue flood victims as authorities issued new alerts over record rains that have killed at least 48 people. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture shows cars trapped in the mud after floods in Saka, Hiroshima prefecture on July 8, 2018. - Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned on July 8 of a 'race against time' to rescue flood victims as authorities issued new alerts over record rains that have killed at least 48 people. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture shows cars trapped in the mud after floods in Saka, Hiroshima prefecture on July 8, 2018. - Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned on July 8 of a 'race against time' to rescue flood victims as authorities issued new alerts over record rains that have killed at least 48 people. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
A man and his wife protect their home from water with sand bags in Saka, Hiroshima prefecture on July 8, 2018. - Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned on July 8 of a 'race against time' to rescue flood victims as authorities issued new alerts over record rains that have killed at least 48 people. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
A man walks in a flooded street in Saka, Hiroshima prefecture on July 8, 2018. - Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned on July 8 of a 'race against time' to rescue flood victims as authorities issued new alerts over record rains that have killed at least 48 people. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
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A city official said 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," said Shigeyuki Asano, a 79-year-old patient who spent a night without electricity or water. "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 continued to look for others.

 

LANDSLIDES

The overall death toll from the rains in Japan rose to at least 81 on Sunday after floodwaters forced several million people from their homes, media reports and the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said.

Another 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.

A three-year-old girl whose home was hit by a landslide in Hiroshima prefecture was found dead by a search team.

"It's very painful," said one elderly man watching nearby. "I have a granddaughter the same age. If it were her, I wouldn't be able to stop crying."

Japan's government set up an emergency management center 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.

 

'SUDDEN DISASTER'

"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.

Two sisters from an elementary school of just six pupils on the small island of Nuwa in Ehime prefecture were among the dead. The younger, a first-grader, was a star and the hope of the depopulated island, the principal told NHK.

"It was such a sudden disaster, I just cannot come to grips with it," the principal said.

Emergency warnings for severe rain in 11 prefectures - the most since a new warning system was introduced in 2013 - had been lifted by evening, but advisories for heavy rain and landslides remained in effect in many areas.

TV footage showed convenience stores with shelves mostly bare while elsewhere, residents lined up to receive water. Some 276,000 households were without water supply, Kyodo said.

Roads were closed and train services suspended in parts of western Japan while Shinkansen bullet train services resumed on a limited schedule after being suspended on Friday.

The rain began late last week as the remnants of a typhoon fed into a seasonal rainy front.

Automakers including Mazda Motor Corp and Daihatsu Motor Co suspended operations at several plants on Saturday and were to decide later on Sunday on plans for the coming week.

Electronics maker Panasonic Corp said one plant in Okayama, western Japan, could not be reached due to road closures, although it had been closed for the weekend anyway. A decision about next week would be made on Monday, it said.

(Writing by Elaine Lies and Linda Sieg, additional reporting by Junko Fujita, Makiko Yamazaki, Maki Shiraki and William Mallard Editing by Darren Schuettler and Jason Neely)

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