Japan floods: Rescuers combing through mud for survivors

Japan floods Death toll rises as PM warns of'race against time

The rains are the worst weather-related disaster in Japan since two typhoons struck in quick succession in August and September 2011, killing almost 100 people.

The number of people in shelters has dropped from 30,000 on Sunday to about 6,700 people on Thursday morning, according to Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

Heavy rains and flooding began July 5, and have primarily affected the Hiroshima prefecture.

The rising waters have forced 2 million people from their homes and thousands of houses are damaged while thousands more are still without power.

Some people were already feeling unwell in the summer heat as they waited in line outside for a water supply truck at an evacuation center in Mihara, Hiroshima Prefecture, despite a portable air conditioning device cooling the spot.

Despite ebbing floods that opened the route to a hospital where almost 100 patients and staff have been stranded, water still swirled through most of the hard-hit city of Kurashiki.

"I'm anxious because I have no idea how long it will stay like this".

On Sunday, the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said efforts to locate those still stranded had turned into a "race against time".

"We are not able to use the toilet or take baths and our food stockpile is running low", said one of the flood affected resident.

Elsewhere, work crews tried to clear multiple small landslides that coated roads, rendering them virtually impassable. He is planning to also visit Hiroshima and Ehime prefectures next. "We need our water system restored".

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"We are doing our best".

Aerial view of flooded houses in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture.

Asked if he knew he lived in a designated risk area, Kenji Ishii, a 57-year-old resident of Mabi district, said: "I'm afraid I did not know that very well". The first 72 hours, or three days, after such a disaster are critical, it is generally said, because the survival rate among people trapped in collapsed houses and other similar situations starts falling sharply after that period.

"We can accept losing things like home appliances, but.it hurts that our memories are all gone", said Hiroko Fukuda.

"All I have is what I'm wearing", a rescued woman clutching a toy poodle told a local TV station.

Many locations logged the heaviest rainfall on record for 24-hour, 48-hour and 72-hour periods as a rain front hovered over Japan and a typhoon neared the archipelago, according to the agency.

The toll has risen steadily since then, and the conditions have made rescue operations hard, with some desperate citizens taking to Twitter to call for help.

"No water, food, nothing gets here", Ichiro Tanabe, a 73-year-old resident in the neighbouring port city of Kure, told the Mainichi newspaper.

At least 176 people have died in recent days after torrential rain caused landslides and flash flooding across western Japan in what has become one of the country's worst weather-related disasters in years.

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