Abe visiting flood-hit western Japan as deaths reach 176

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Record-breaking rain: Japan's Meteorological Agency said that three hours of rainfall in one area of Kochi prefecture had reached 26.3 centimeters (10.4 inches), so far the highest rain accumulation since 1976, when the organization began measuring rainfall.

Torrential rain unleashed floods and landslides in western Japan last week, bringing death and destruction in particular to neighbourhoods built decades ago near steep slopes.

The rain has relented but the country is still struggling to deal with the extensive damage left in its wake.

Japanese media on Wednesday focused on the timing of evacuation orders issued in the hard-hit Mabi district of Kurashiki city just minutes before a levee broke and water poured into the residential area.

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.

The Ministry of Health estimates 8,400 people remain in evacuation shelters, unable to return to flooded homes, while 254,000 households in Hiroshima and Okayama are suffering from water outages.

"Food is in short supply".

Suga said the government set up a task force and was spending 2 billion yen (NZ$26 million) to hasten deliveries of supplies and other support for evacuation centres and residents in the region.

Some 8.63m people across 23 prefectures have been ordered to evacuate.

Some cities within Okayama prefecture saw flooding of almost 30 percent of the total area, while the number of partially or fully destroyed homes nationwide exceeds 10,000.

In the town of Saka, Eiichi Tsuiki opted to stay in his home, and survived only by moving to the top floor as flood waters rose, washing away cars outside.

"It hurts that our memories are gone". "I hope they find him soon".

To ensure smooth transportation of relief goods, the government also chose to treat trucks that usually deliver products to convenience stores and others as emergency vehicles.

In an elementary school gymnasium in the city of Kurashiki, he shook hands and exchanged words with some evacuees.

According to NHK public television, the death toll stood at 126 by Tuesday morning, with another six people in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest - a term Japanese authorities often use to describe those who have not been officially pronounced dead by a doctor.

In Kurashiki near Okayama, soldiers were deployed to carry elderly residents from their homes into waiting dinghies.

Ramaphosa sent the message to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe following torrential rains and landslides.

Sadly, her young colt, Earth, is missing and is not thought to have survived the floods.

More rain is expected over the next few days. "Thankfully, I was OK and nobody in this neighborhood was severely injured", he told the Kyodo news agency.