Pope Francis prays for Japan amid deadly flooding


The death toll reached at least 114, NHK public television said, with 61 people missing.

The record downpours triggered a series of mudslides around Hiroshima and Okayama prefectures, as well as flooding homes across a wide swath of the region from Friday afternoon to early Saturday, raising Japan's highest death toll in a rain-related natural disaster since 1982, The Japan Times reported. "We are cut off from the road and we can't go anywhere by auto", Hyuga said. But a local volunteer, Yuki Sato, 25, said local convenience stores were obviously in short supply, so she didn't buy anything there because she wanted to save them for the evacuees or others who can't drive out of town.

"Mud and dirt is still blocking our local bus route, so we are trying to get that out of the way, so the road can be reopened for buses and cars", he told AP.

The flooding was particularly harsh because much of the rain fell over a mountainous region and then funneled down, causing heavy flash flooding.

Rescue workers look for missing people in a house damaged by heavy rain in Kumano, Hiroshima Prefecture, on July 9.

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Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said 73,000 police, firemen and troops were taking part in the rescue effort, with 700 helicopters deployed to help. Regional supermarket chains such as Every Co. said one outlet is closed and several other outlets shortened service hours due to delivery delays and supply shortage.

Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes, and those unable to leave took shelter on rooftops as the streets filled with water.

And even with the rains over, the risk of flooding remained, with the town of Fuchu in Hiroshima issuing a new evacuation order as a local river burst its banks.

On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cancelled an overseas trips to Brussels (where he was set to sign a free trade deal with the EU) as well as France, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia in order to assess disaster-struck Okayama prefecture on Wednesday.

Abe visited an evacuation center Wednesday in a hard-hit flood zone in western Japan.

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Kurashiki city in Okayama prefecture, where the Mabi district was especially hard hit by this week's floods, distributed a hazard map in 2016, the Yomiuri newspaper said.

Abe then visited the devastated city of Kurashiki and met with the governor of Okayama.

The city of Kurashiki, with a population of almost 500,000, has been hit hardest by the torrential rain that pounded western Japan with three times the usual amount for July.

A man rides a scooter along a flooded road following a landslide, on July 10, 2018 in Yanohigashi near Hiroshima, Japan.

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

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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.