Torrential rains blamed for deaths of dozens in southwest Japan

Dozens dead and missing as 'historic rains' and floods hit Japan

The front then remained in one place for an unusually long time, the JMA said.

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

The death toll was put at 38 this morning by the public broadcaster NHK, with dozens more missing.

The death toll is the highest caused by water disasters since 2014 when 77 people were killed in heavy rain which set off landslides in Hiroshima in western Japan.

In Okayama prefecture, rescue workers flew in helicopters over areas that are still under flood water and otherwise unreachable, looking for signs of life.

Another 58 were missing, NHK said, and more rain was set to hit some areas for at least another day.

Since Thursday parts of western Japan have received three times the usual rainfall for the whole of July, setting off floods and landslides.

Referring to the threat of landslides and damaging winds, the Japan Meteorological Agency told reporters, "Severe caution is needed".

"It's very painful", said one elderly man watching nearby."I have a granddaughter the same age. I was just able to escape, but I was terrified", 62-year-old Yuzo Hori told the Mainichi Shimbun daily in Hiroshima on Saturday.

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On the morning of July 8, the government set up an emergency headquarters in response to the heavy rainfall in western Japan and held its first meeting at the prime minister's office.

"The situation is extremely serious", Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, said as he called for an "all-out" rescue effort.

Carmakers including Mazda and Daihatsu suspended operations at several plants last Saturday.

At least 60 people have died in Japan as the country is battered by the worst rains and flooding in the country's history.

"I've lived here for 40 years".

A total of 8.63 million people in 23 prefectures from the Kyushu to Hokuriku regions have been ordered to evacuate.

In Kochi Prefecture in western Japan, more than 900 mm of rain fell over a 48 hour period, leading to prefectural officials to seek the assistance of the Ground Self Defense Force to help with search and rescue operations. Many of those who defied the instructions, however, have found themselves caught in flash floods and landslides.

Separately, a 6.0 magnitude quake struck off the coast of Chiba prefecture on Saturday evening, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Later, as he walked around to inspect his neighbourhood, he saw many houses with the doors wide open, suggesting that residents had evacuated in a panic, he said. Nine homes were destroyed, dozens more were damaged, while more than 500 were flooded.

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