Death toll climbs to 54 as heavy rain hammers southern Japan

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The death toll from the historic rainfall in western Japan rose to 90 on Monday as rescuers stepped up efforts in areas hit by flooding and landslides that forced over 23,000 people into evacuation centers.

Pope Francis expressed his "heartfelt solidarity" with all those affected by the worst flood disaster to strike western Japan in 35 years and said he is praying "especially for the repose of the deceased, the healing of those injured and the consolation of all those who grieve".

At least 100 people are believed to have died, and another 80 people are unaccounted for, after heavy rains and mudslides thrashed southern Japan.

A Hiroshima resident, Seiji Toda, took precautions because of his memories of flooding four years ago that killed more than 70 people in Hiroshima.

As floods and landslides hinder rescue operations, more than 50 others are missing.

More than 54,000 emergency workers, police and troops have been deployed to help people, with the Self Defence Forces dispatching several planes to help airlift residents to safety.

At least 100 people died or are presumed dead, with more than 60 still unaccounted for, majority in the hardest-hit Hiroshima area.

"The record rainfalls in various parts of the country have caused rivers to burst their banks, and triggered large scale floods and landslides in several areas", Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Sunday.

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Two million people have been ordered to evacuate. Some 40 helicopters were out on rescue missions.

European Union chief Donald Tusk has suggested moving the postponed summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Tokyo next week.

The goal is to prevent burglaries of houses and shops, especially in Okayama and Hiroshima prefectures. There are at least 58 people missing.

As of Monday morning, the health ministry said the water supply to more than 13,600 households remained cutoff and 267,000 households were still without electricity.

Although evacuation orders were scaled back from the weekend, almost 2 million people still face orders or advice to keep away from homes, fire and disaster officials said.

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 unsafe conditions.

Roads were closed and train services suspended in parts of western Japan.

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 nation, leaving it prone to disasters.