The death toll in western Japan continued to climb on Sunday, after days of unrelenting rain caused severe flooding and triggered landslide warnings.
The Japan Meteorological Agency upgraded its alert system to the highest level-only issued when the amount of rain is expected to be the highest in decades-in large areas of western Japan, while lifting the warning in other regions.
The torrential downpours have caused flash flooding and landslides, with local media putting the toll around 50 dead with dozens more unaccounted for.
"We are carrying out rescue operations around the clock", said Yoshihide Fujitani, a disaster management official in Hiroshima Prefecture.
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These prefectures include those in the Kansai region, including Osaka, which is still reeling from a powerful natural disaster that hit the area in June.
"Rescues, saving lives and evacuations are a race against time", Abe said as he met with a government crisis cell set up to respond to the disaster.
Unprecedented rains that have killed at least 73 people also stranded 1,850 in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, on Sunday, including about 130 at a hospital, with rescuers using helicopters and boats after rivers surged over their banks. In Hiroshima Prefecture, emergency services have received reports that residents were buried alive as they were hit by landslides.
Four people in Ehime, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures were in critical condition after being injured in landslides, NHK said.
"Water came to the middle of the second floor", a woman in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, wrote, posting a picture of her room half swamped by flooding.
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Japan's government set up an emergency management centre at the prime minister's office and some 54,000 rescuers from the military, police and fire departments were dispatched across a wide swath of western and southwestern Japan.
A road is damaged by flood water following heavy rain in Kurashiki city, Okayama prefecture, southwestern Japan, Sunday, July 8, 2018.
Landslide warnings were issued in more than a quarter of Japan's prefectures.
Two sisters from an elementary school with just six students on the small island of Nuwa in Ehime prefecture also died, according to Reuters.
Katsura river is seen swollen due to a heavy rain in Kyoto, western Japan Friday, July 6, 2018. Some 30,000 people remained in shelters on Sunday, while the evacuation orders and advisories were issued for almost 6 million people, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.
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The worst hit region by the flood was in the southern area of Hiroshima prefecture, where a landslide struck a public housing complex in Hiroshima City and inundated about 20 buildings, according to NHK.