Japan flood: Death toll mounts to 88

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Shinzo Abe, Japan's Prime Minister, has warned of a "race against time" to rescue flood victims as authorities issued new alerts over record rains that have killed at least 48 people and left dozens missing.

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".

According to Japanese broadcaster NHK, authorities say that the death toll has risen to 85, and six people remain in critical condition.

Some 54,000 members of the police, fire departments, Self-Defence Forces and the Japan Coast Guard have been involved in search efforts for the people trapped or wounded in landslides and flooding triggered by the heavy rain. Consecutive heavy rain has affected more than 306,000 people from 24 counties in Jiangxi, causing 19,700 people to relocate and a direct economic loss of 410 million yuan (about 61 million U.S. dollars).

Rescuers expanded their search for people missing and stranded in flooding and landslides, as evacuation orders or advisories remain in effect for 4.3 million people in 23 prefectures from central to southwestern Japan. Most have been rescued by boats and helicopters.

The rains are the deadliest weather disaster in Japan since two typhoons that hit back-to-back in August and September 2011, killing almost 100 people.

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Heavy rain was forecast to continue through Sunday in the west and the east, agency official Minako Sakurai told reporters.

Most of the deaths were reported in Hiroshima and Ehime Prefectures, though eight prefectures were impacted.

"We have agreed to open up embassies in our respective countries, allow our people to visit each other's cities and allow our airlines and ports to operate freely", said Abiy.

Automaker Mazda Motor Corp. and Daihatsu Motor Co., have also suspended their operations in factories in Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Yamaguchi, keeping in mind the safety of the employees.

Evacuation orders are in place for almost 2 million people, with 276,000 households without water and TV footage showing supermarkets with bare shelves in many affected regions.

The Japanese government set up an emergency headquarters, designed for crises such as major earthquakes.

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