Policemen walk past a swamped house in Kure, Hiroshima, southwestern Japan, July 11, 2018. The death toll in the wake of torrential rains battering western Japan and causing devastating floods and fatal landslides reached 176 on Wednesday, authorities said. (Xinhua/Ma Ping)
TOKYO, July 11 (Xinhua) -- The death toll in the wake of torrential rains battering western Japan and causing devastating floods and fatal landslides reached 176 on Wednesday, authorities said.
They also said that 80 people remain unaccounted for as search and rescue teams continue to try to find people stranded in buildings cut off from roads due to flooding, buried beneath rubble from landslides, or in swollen rivers.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited hard-hit Okayama Prefecture on Wednesday and observed the devastation caused by floods and landslides in Kurashiki and Takahashi cities.
He said that the central government will do everything in its power to financially support local governments as they set about reconstruction and restoration projects so that disaster victims can rebuild their lives.
Japan's top government spokesperson, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, previously told a press briefing on the matter that the government is likely to tap into reserve funds of about 2 billion yen (about 18 million U.S. dollars) to help deal with the disaster's aftereffects.
In Okayama Prefecture, more than 50 were killed in the Mabi district of flood-ravaged Kurashiki city.
Abe also visited an elementary school gymnasium in the city of Kurashiki. The school's gym is being used as an emergency evacuation center for more than 200 people.
Abe, who is also scheduled to visit heavily-hit Hiroshima and Ehime prefectures on Monday, canceled his trip to Europe and the Middle East to attend to Japan's worst rain-related disaster in 36 years.
Abe had planned to visit Belgium, France, Saudi Arabia and Egypt from Wednesday.
Thousands of people in the affected regions, meanwhile, are still struggling without water supply, with the welfare ministry saying that 254,084 homes spanning the hardest-hit prefectures of Hiroshima, Ehime and Okayama are still without water.
Across nine other prefectures including Osaka, Yamaguchi and Tokushima, the ministry said that 1,100 homes remain without water supply and the likelihood of it being restored is extremely minimal.
In western Japan, local municipalities have said that as of Wednesday morning, there were more than 7,200 people taking shelter at emergency shelters across 15 prefectures.
In the hardest-hit region of Okayama and Hiroshima prefectures, there are 3,050 and 2,996 evacuees respectively staying in emergency facilities.
Both emergency services, households and evacuees have been struggling with telecommunications services as NTT West said that nearly 16,000 landlines and Internet connections are down affecting an expansive area of western Japan.
As a result, many parts of the region have become connection "dead spots" for both land-based and mobile devices.
The telecommunication firms with coverage in the devastated areas said that severe downpours damaged communication cables and other key infrastructure, severely crippling their services.