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Japan flood toll nears 200, thousands battle heat

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Rescue workers and Japan Self-Defense Forces soldiers search for missing people at a landslide site caused by heavy rain in Kumano Town, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

KURASHIKI (Reuters) – Intense heat and water shortages raised fears of disease outbreaks in flood-hit western Japan yesterday as the death toll from the worst weather disaster in 36 years neared 200.

More than 200,000 households had no water a week after torrential rains caused floods and set off landslides across western Japan, bringing death and destruction to decades-old communities built on mountain slopes and flood plains.

The death toll rose to 195, with several dozen people still missing, the government said yesterday.

With daily temperatures above 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) and high humidity, life in school gymnasiums and other evacuation centers, where families spread out on mats on the floors, began to take a toll.

The limited water supply meant that people are not getting enough fluids and in danger of suffering from heatstroke, authorities said. People are also reluctant to use what water they do have to wash their hands, raising fears of epidemics.

The government has sent water trucks to the disaster area, but supplies remain limited.

More than 70,000 military, police and firefighters toiled through the debris in a grim search for the missing.

“It’s an undeniable fact that this sort of disaster due to torrential, unprecedented rain is becoming more frequent in recent years,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference in Tokyo.

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