Japan struggles in the wake of worst flooding in decades

Residents look over their flooded town in Kurashiki Okayama Prefecture western Japan

Despite various measures meant to prevent deaths, including dams to control flood waters, the country sees rain-related deaths most years.

Some 123 people are confirmed dead, two are in cardiac arrest and another 61 are unaccounted for, according to a tally by public broadcaster NHK at 10pm local time (9pm in Singapore). He explained, "Rescues, saving lives and evacuations are a race against time".

"We've never had this kind of rain before", a Japanese Meteorological Agency official said.

"We don't know how long we're allowed to stay here".

Hideto Yamanaka was leading a team of around 60 firefighters dispatched from outside the prefecture searching homes.

"Physically weak people may have been late in getting out when it suddenly started raining hard, swamping the area", he told AFP. (Reuters/Issei Kato) A woman stands in a flooded area in Mabi. People walking around wore medical masks or covered their mouths with small towels to protect themselves against the particulates.

He found a stuffed toy he gave to the younger son near the destroyed wooden home and is hoping to find the remaining members of his family, as rescuers continued to dig out the area.

One of those lining up was Yumeko Matsui, whose home in Hiroshima had been without water since Saturday.

"I saw my house sink underwater and I couldn't do anything at all, there was just nothing I could do".

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Osatanakorn said conditions in the cave had not changed much despite the heavy rain. "So I've been asking for three days". The other, and perhaps more worrying, was that oxygen levels in the complex were falling close to risky levels.

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In 1999, when Taiwan was hit by a powerful natural disaster, Japan dispatched the largest team to help with relief and donated NT$1.1 billion (US$37 million) in funds.

The government has termed the heavy rains that battered central and western Japan from last Thursday through Sunday as "historic".

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has canceled an overseas trip to cope with the disaster, which at one point forced several million from their homes.

Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the whereabouts of 92 people is unknown, mostly in the southern area of Hiroshima prefecture. Around 78 more are still missing. Residents lined up for water under the scorching sun as temperatures rose to 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit), raising risks of heat stroke. "Please be careful about heatstroke if you're doing reconstruction outdoors, and continue to be vigilant about landslides", Suga said.

The government has set up a taskforce to speed up deliveries of supplies and other support for evacuation centres and residents in the region, but disrupted roads and other ground transportation have delayed shipment, raising concerns of shortages.

A new evacuation order went out on Tuesday in a part of Hiroshima prefecture, after a river blocked by debris overflowed its banks, affecting 23,000 people.

In Ehime prefecture, authorities said they were struggling to get emergency food and water to some cut-off areas.

"It will take a lot of time to see devastated areas recover".

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