Tokyo, July 11 The death toll arising from torrential rains and floods in central and southwestern Japan has risen to 179, the government said on Wednesday, while the search and rescue efforts for the missing continue.
Floods and landslides triggered by the record rainfall since Thursday devastated western Japan and ravaged Hiroshima and Ehime Prefectures, where thousands of houses were inundated and a large number of population left isolated, according to Efe news.
Most of the fatalities occurred in the prefectures of Hiroshima and Okayama and Ehime, government spokesperson Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at the press conference.
The number of missing ranged between 39 and 56, the local media reported citing the data announced by authorities in affected regions.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe travelled to Okayama in a helicopter of the Japan Self-Defence Forces to observe the search and rescue efforts as well as the disaster relief and response work.
Abe's visit to Okayama, where around 50 people were killed in accidents caused by rains and floods, took place after the conservative leader cancelled his Europe and Middle East tours originally scheduled for this week.
Abe also plans to visit Hiroshima Prefecture, which witnessed the highest death toll at about 60, and Ehime Prefecture.
Over 1,600 millimetres of rain has fallen in recent days, triggering some of Japan's worst landslides and floods in 36 years.
Some 83,000 people were in temporary shelters, while 255,000 citizens lost access to a clean water supply, according to the state broadcaster NHK.
Rainfall caused rivers to flood, inundating entire towns, where water levels rose three metres in some places and caused serious damage to buildings, roads, bridges and other infrastructure.