Death toll climbs to 54 as heavy rain hammers southern Japan

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Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members use a boat to evacuate residents from a flooded area caused by heavy rains in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture, southwestern Japan, Saturday, July 7, 2018. Torrents of rainfall and flooding continued to batter southwes

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members use a boat to evacuate residents from a flooded area caused by heavy rains in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture, southwestern Japan, Saturday, July 7, 2018. Torrents of rainfall and flooding continued to batter southwes (Photo: Takumi Sato)

TOKYO (AP) — Heavy rainfall is hammering southern Japan for the third day, prompting new disaster warnings on Kyushu and Shikoku islands as local media report the death toll has risen to 54 with 44 people missing.

The Japan Meteorological Agency says three hours of rainfall in one area in Kochi prefecture reached an accumulated 26.3 centimeters (10.4 inches), the highest since such records started in 1976.

Roads are covered in mud waters after a landslide caused by heavy rains in Aki, Hiroshima prefecture, southwestern Japan, Saturday, July 7, 2018. Torrents of rainfall and flooding continued to batter southwestern Japan. (Kyodo News via AP)
Roads are covered in mud waters after a landslide caused by heavy rains in Aki, Hiroshima prefecture, southwestern Japan, Saturday, July 7, 2018. Torrents of rainfall and flooding continued to batter southwestern Japan. (Kyodo News via AP)
Residents are evacuated to a safer place from floodwaters caused by heavy rains in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture, southwestern Japan, Saturday, July 7, 2018. Torrents of rainfall and flooding continued to batter southwestern Japan. (Koki Sengoku/Kyodo New
Residents are evacuated to a safer place from floodwaters caused by heavy rains in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture, southwestern Japan, Saturday, July 7, 2018. Torrents of rainfall and flooding continued to batter southwestern Japan. (Koki Sengoku/Kyodo New
Residential buildings are partially submerged in floodwaters caused by heavy rains in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture, southwestern Japan, Saturday, July 7, 2018. Torrents of rainfall and flooding continued to batter southwestern Japan. (Koki Sengoku/Kyodo
Residential buildings are partially submerged in floodwaters caused by heavy rains in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture, southwestern Japan, Saturday, July 7, 2018. Torrents of rainfall and flooding continued to batter southwestern Japan. (Koki Sengoku/Kyodo
Residential buildings are damaged by a landslide caused by heavy rains in Sakacho, Hiroshima prefecture, south western Japan, Saturday, July 7, 2018. Torrents of rainfall and flooding continued to batter southwestern Japan. (Kyodo News via AP)
Residential buildings are damaged by a landslide caused by heavy rains in Sakacho, Hiroshima prefecture, south western Japan, Saturday, July 7, 2018. Torrents of rainfall and flooding continued to batter southwestern Japan. (Kyodo News via AP)

The assessment of casualties is difficult because of the widespread area affected by the rain, flooding and landslides.

Authorities warn landslides can strike even after rain subsides as the calamity is shaping up to be potentially the worst in decades.

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