With emergency rain warnings lifted, the country is now turning its focus to search and rescue efforts. Police, fire departments and the military are scouring affected areas for the dozens of people still missing or unaccounted for.
“We will unite and move swiftly to deliver those necessities to the disaster victims by coordinating closely with local government,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a meeting with the disaster response task force, also noting “the future need” to improve evacuation centers and temporary housing.
While authorities search for the missing, residents begin the cleanup, wading through flooded houses and streets.
Thousands of houses have been damaged, and even the ones that stand intact have been impacted. Nearly 17,000 households are still without power, and phone lines are down across multiple prefectures.
Further complicating repair efforts is the fact that many railroads and highways are closed, too flooded to operate, placing many affected areas out of reach.
Rains began late last week and intensified over the weekend. Rivers overflowed, landslides crushed buildings, and cars were swept away by floodwater.
“The record rainfalls in various parts of the country have caused rivers to burst their banks, and triggered large scale floods and landslides in several areas,” Cabinet Secretary Suga said Sunday.
In Kurashiki near Okayama, soldiers were deployed to carry elderly residents from their homes into waiting boats.
Kazuhiko Ono, who owns a secondhand book store in Hiroshima city, was unable to return to his home and store when the rains first arrived. His wife and children took shelter in the second floor of their home, while the store filled up with water.
“I’m so sad I lost many books,” Ono said. “I can never find them anymore.”
Hiroshima and Ehime prefectures were some of the hardest hit, though nine others were also heavily impacted.
Images from Kuyashiki, a city on the southern coast of Okayama Prefecture, show cars overturned or buried in mud.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported
about 364 millimeters of rain fell between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. Sunday in the city of Uwajima — approximately 1.5 times the average monthly rainfall for July. In Sukumo City in Kochi prefecture, 263 millimeters of rain fell in two hours, NHK said.
Around 73,000 personnel have been mobilized for search-and-rescue efforts.
** This story was originally published on Monday evening NZT **
– WeatherWatch.co.nz – a CNN affiliate