Millions flee as Japan floods and landslides kill at least 85

The swollen Kamo River is seen following heavy rain near the Sanjo Ohashi Bridge in Kyoto

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered his ministers to "make an all-out effort" to rescue victims, saying: "The situation is extremely serious".

Dozens of people remain missing after the days of torrential rains that have caused flash floods and landslides. The rain set off landslides and flooded rivers, trapping many people in their houses or on rooftops.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said around 48,000 police, fire fighters and members of the Self-Defence Forces were responding to more than 100 landslides and other appeals for help.

So far 1.5million people have been forced to leave their homes, with 3million more advised to do so or face the devastating consequences brought by the flooding.

In Sukumo City in Kochi prefecture, 263 millimeters (10.3 inches) of rain fell in two hours, NHK reported.

Military water trucks were dispatched to areas where water systems were no longer working, Okayama prefecture said.

The death toll from torrential rain and landslides in western Japan rose to 81 people yesterday, with dozens still missing after more than 2,000, temporarily stranded in the city of Kurashiki, were rescued.

In western Okayama prefecture, rescue operations were underway to evacuate several hundred people including children and the elderly from a hospital, some by helicopter.

The rains are the deadliest weather disaster in Japan since two typhoons that hit back-to-back in August and September 2011, killing almost 100 people.

Among the worst hit areas was Hiroshima prefecture, where some villages were hit by landslides and other were nearly entirely submerged, forcing desperate residents to take shelter on rooftops.

Record levels of rainfall have continued to hit wide swathes of Japan with evacuation orders being issued for more than 170,000 people spanning nine prefectures, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency here said.

Emergency and weather officials warn of the possibility of additional damage caused by flooding and mudslides, although all emergency warnings issued from July 6 through 8 in 11 prefectures by the Japan Meteorological Agency alerting the significant likelihood of catastrophic disasters had been lifted as of the night of July 8. "I was just able to escape, but I was terrified", 62-year-old Yuzo Hori told the Mainichi Shimbun daily in Hiroshima. Some 38 houses were completely destroyed, while 21 housing units were partially damaged.

The heavy rain has followed a typhoon that made landfall last week, but most deaths have been reported since Thursday. "I've never seen this before", the 69-year-old oyster farmer told AFP. "Without water, I can not clear mud from my house".

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