155 confirmed dead as Japan searches for missing

Japan floods Death toll rises as PM warns of'race against time

Policemen remove debris during search operations for missing people in a flooded area in Asakura.

Most of the deaths occurred in the hard-hit prefectures of Hiroshima and Okayama where rain caused several landslides, according to the Japanese Red Cross Society, which has been working with communities since weather warnings and evacuation orders were issued.

Television footage showed one elderly woman trying to sleep by kneeling with her upper body on the seat of a folding chair, arms over her eyes to keep out the light.

With few portable fans in evacuation centers, many survivors waved paper fans to keep cool. This meant that residents are not getting enough fluids as temperatures rise, and are in danger of suffering from heatstroke, authorities said.

"The water level is expected to go down, as we are clearing driftwood and other rubble, but that's far from a guarantee of safety", he told AFP by phone.

The government has sent water trucks to affected places, but supplies remain limited.

Some 75,000 responders have been deployed to the area for search and rescue operations.

Teams used diggers and chainsaws to clear landslides and cut away wreckage of buildings and trees. Most of the deaths were in Hiroshima and the surrounding area.

"The critical 72 hours have passed", said Mutsunari Imawaka, an official with Okayama prefecture, one of the worst-hit regions.

Rescuers are continuing to search for people as many are believed to be trapped in their homes amid heavy flooding.

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Officials said 170 patients and staff had been evacuated from the hospital, while the public broadcaster NHK later said about 80 people were still stranded.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe canceled a planned July 11-18 trip to Europe and the Middle East to oversee the emergency response.

"We have done our best since the disaster happened", local media quoted him as saying.

Expediting this designation, the prime minister said, will enable local municipalities to receive higher subsidies for reconstruction and restoration work.

Some residents of Mabi had shrugged off the warnings, however, given the area's history of floods.

Even some of those whose homes were not destroyed were struggling with water and electricity shortages.

A military boat plucked them from the second floor of the house, where they had fled to escape the rising waters.

"The affected areas are in dire need of rescuers and financial assistance", Junji Ide, chief director of Lohas Minami Aso Tasukeai, an NGO of volunteers, told Al Jazeera from Saka in Hiroshima.

"We can not take baths, the toilet doesn't work and our food stockpile is running low", said Yumeko Matsui, whose home has been without water since Saturday.

Emergency service workers pass a damaged road following a landslide, on July 10, 2018 in Yanohigashi near Hiroshima, Japan. There remained a risk of landslides, with rain-sodden hilltops liable to collapse.

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