Japan Floods Toll Reaches 176 Deaths, Prime Minister Visits Evacuees

Firefighters search for missing people in a house damaged by a landslide following torrential rain in Kitakyushu southwestern Japan

READ MOREMass evacuations in Japan as rain hits

KURASHIKI, Japan (Reuters) - Rescuers in western Japan dug through mud and rubble early on Tuesday, racing to find survivors after torrential rain that began last week unleashed floods and landslides that killed up to 130 people, with dozens missing.

Fourteen cities and towns in Hiroshima Prefecture have been affected by water cut-offs following a number of mudslides that ruptured water pipes and caused power outages at distribution reservoirs. Heavy rainfall hammered southern Japan for the third day, prompting new disaster warnings on Kyushu and Shikoku islands. Rivers overflowed, turning towns into lakes and leaving dozens of people stranded on rooftops.

The Japanese government said Sunday that 92 people were still unaccounted for.

At least 79 people were still missing, including 41 in Hiroshima Prefecture and 32 in Okayama Prefecture.

Almost 2 million people have been asked to evacuate the affected areas. "Please be careful about heatstroke if you're doing reconstruction outdoors, and continue to be vigilant about landslides", Suga said.

Temperatures rose in disaster-affected areas from dawn on Tuesday, forcing rescue teams to battle with the heat on top of rescue operations and debris removal.

A total of 10 bodies were found in houses and elsewhere in the Mabicho district in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture. Officials in Ehime prefecture asked the government to review its weather warning system, noting that rain warnings were issued after damage and casualties had already occurred.

"People believe Okayama is very safe, nobody thought that [a disaster] would happen to this city", Yusuke Fujii, who lives in Osaka but travelled to Okayama to visit his grandmother, told the BBC. Many waited hours to be rescued.

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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets local residents staying at an evacuation centre in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 11, 2018.

"We know it's a race against time, we are trying as hard as we can". "Senators, I thought you'd care more for your people", another added.

Scores of patients, some still in their pyjamas, and nurses were rescued from the isolated Mabi Memorial Hospital in boats rowed by members of Japan's Self Defence Forces. Critical infrastructure has been hit, including railway tracks.

Some 54,000 rescuers from the military, police and fire departments were dispatched across a wide swath of western and southwestern Japan.

He viewed the damage from above in a helicopter and visited an evacuation center.

Rescue workers search for missing people at a mudslide site following days of heavy rain in Kumano town, Hiroshima prefecture, southwestern Japan.

Authorities say it could potentially be the worst weather disaster Japan has seen in decades.

At least 67 people were reported dead in Hiroshima, according to the national broadcaster, NHK.

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