Japan Death toll for Heavy Rain Raised to 73

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Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Monday at least 103 people have died or are presumed dead from the heavy rains, floods and mudslides that have struck large parts of western Japan.

The toll in days of devastating rains in southwestern Japan has risen to 100, the government's top spokesman said Monday, as search-and-rescue operations continued.

Pope Francis is praying for the victims of Japan's flooding and is encouraging civil authorities involved in search and rescue operations.

Temperature of up to 55.9 degrees Celsius was recorded in one city in Oita Prefecture, and Japan's Meteorological Agency (JMA) has warned those staying in or providing emergency relief in evacuation shelters to be wary of heatstroke.

Later, as he walked around to inspect his neighbourhood, he saw many houses with the doors wide open, suggesting that residents had evacuated in a panic, he said.

As of Monday morning, around 23,000 people were sheltered in evacuation centers, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that a special disaster response unit has been boosted to 73,000 and said it is "putting in utmost efforts to save lives".

Up to 6.3 million people were ordered to leave their homes in 19 prefectures. Some 40 helicopters were out on rescue missions.

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"We can not take baths, the toilet doesn't work and our food stockpile is running low", said Yumeko Matsui, whose home in the city of Mihara, in Hiroshima prefecture, has been without water since Saturday. Many people are believed to be stranded in their homes, with casualties expected to continue rising in affected areas, reported the Japan Times.

Local government officials said pumping trucks were being deployed to help restore access to some of the worst-hit areas in the area, and with the rains stopped, water was starting to recede.

Another 79 people were missing, NHK said.

Over 12,000 buildings in prefectures including Hiroshima, Okayama and Ehime are without power, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Automakers including Mazda Motor Corp (7261.T) and Daihatsu Diesel Manufacturing Co (6023.T) suspended operations at several plants on Saturday due to a shortage of parts or risky conditions.

Japan monitors weather conditions and issues warnings early, but its dense population means every bit of usable land is built on in the mostly mountainous country, leaving it prone to disasters.

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