July 8 (UPI) — The death toll rose to least 76 and dozens more missing from mudslides after heavy rain in Japan, according to media reports.
The rains began Thursday and continued Sunday in many areas across western and central Japan.
Most of the deaths have occurred in Hiroshima prefecture.
In rare “emergency warnings,” Japan’s Meteorological Agency described landslides, rising rivers, strong winds and lightning strikes caused by what it called “historic” rains in 23 prefectures across western and central Japan. Kyodo News reported those extreme conditions occur just once or twice in 70 years.
In a 24-hour period ending Saturday morning, more than 22 inches of rain fell in Motoyama, a town on the southern Shikoku Island, the weather service said.
Evacuated were 1.6 million people from their homes and another 3.1 million on high alert and urged to do so.
Around 54,000 police officers, firefighters and members of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and Coast Guard had been mobilized in the rescue effort, Cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said. Utulized were boats and helicopters.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at an emergency center Sunday that authorities were in a “race against time.
Auto manufacturers Mitsubishi and Mazda halted production, Kyodo reported.