Japan rescuers go house to house as flood toll hits 141

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Police arrive to clear debris scattered on a street in a flood hit area in Kumano, Hiroshima. By Tuesday morning, rescue workers were going door-to-door, looking for survivors -- or victims -- of the disaster which has claimed 141 lives in western part of the country. AFP

KUMANO (AFP) – Rescue workers carried out house-to-house searches Tuesday in the increasingly unlikely hope of finding survivors after days of deadly floods and landslides that have claimed 141 lives in one of Japan’s worst weather-related disasters for decades.

The record downpours that began last week have stopped and receding flood waters have laid bare the destruction that has cut a swathe through the west of the country.

In the city of Kurashiki, the flooding engulfed entire districts at one point, forcing some people to their rooftops to wait for rescue.

By Tuesday morning, rescue workers were going door-to-door, looking for survivors — or victims — of the disaster.

“It’s what we call a grid operation, where we are checking every single house to see if there are people still trapped inside them,” an official with the local Okayama prefecture government told AFP.

Hideto Yamanaka, who was leading a team of around 60 firefighters dispatched from outside the prefecture searching homes, said:” Elderly people who were living alone may have failed to escape.”

In the Mabi district of Kurashiki, the water left behind a fine yellow silt that has transformed the area into moonscape.

Stores were still closed, and inside one barber’s shop the red sofas, customer chairs, and standing hair dryers were all covered with the same silt.

The crisis is the deadliest rain-related disaster in over three decades, and has sparked national grief.

On Monday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cancelled a four-stop foreign trip as the death toll rose, and his office said he would visit Okayama on Wednesday.

Around 75,000 police, firemen and troops have been deployed in the search and rescue operation across parts of central and western Japan.

Thousands of people remain in shelters, and local authorities in some areas were offering drinking water and bathing services for those without their own supply.

The government said it would tap around $20 million in reserve funds to provide aid to those affected by the disaster.

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