Japan is in a race against time, as the flooding death toll edged closer to 80 on Sunday night.
The country’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, said rescue efforts would continue through the night, with about 40 helicopters out on mission. The death toll currently sits at 76.
More than 100 casualties have been reported to authorities, but that number could spike significantly, as there are just so many cases that have not been accounted for.
“Rescue efforts are a battle with time,” Abe told journalists on Sunday.
“The rescue teams are doing their utmost,” added the Prime Minister.
Authorities say as much as 10 inches of rain was recorded in the Kochi area this week, the highest it has been since 1976. They fear the flooding is just the beginning though, as land and mudslides now present a significant risk to the area.
According to the Meteorological Agency, around 583mm of rain fell between Friday and Saturday morning in the town of Motoyama, on Shikoku Island. The town is around 600km away from the capital, Tokyo.
The Agency retained special weather warnings for three prefectures on the main island of Honshu, down from five. However, the public has still been warned to be vigilant against landslide, rising rivers and strong winds amidst what it has called “historic” rains.
Among the dead is a man who fell from a bridge into a river in Hiroshima city. A 77-year-old man in Takashima, 56km east of the ancient capital Kyoto, died after being swept into a canal while he worked to remove debris, the public broadcaster, NHK, reports.
The four critically injured were from Ehime, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures. They were injured in landslides.
Around 1.6 million people have been ordered to evacuate their homes for fear of flooding and further landslides, while 3.1 million more have been advised to leave, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency reports.
According to a report by Reuters, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that about 48 000 police, firefighters and members of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces have responded to appeals for help.
There are also reports that industry has been affected by the torrential rains, as some auto manufacturers reportedly stopped production as the weather disrupted supply chains and risked workers’ safety, Kyodo news agency reports.
Reuters, however, says that the firms could not be reached for comment outside of business hours.
The risk of heavy rains remains, as a weather front has settled between eastern and western Japan and could continue on Sunday as warm air flowed towards the front.