Abe visiting flood-hit western Japan as deaths reach 176

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe listens to an evacuee during a visit to an evacuation center in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture, southwestern Japan, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. Abe visited the hard-hit city where a river broke through an embankment and swept through residential areas. (Shohei Miyano/Kyodo News via AP)
A police officer looks into a car buried in mud during a search operation in the aftermath of heavy rains in Kure, Hiroshima prefecture, southwestern Japan, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. Rescuers were combing through mud-covered hillsides and along riverbanks Tuesday searching for dozens of people missing after heavy rains unleashed flooding and mudslides in southwestern Japan. (Shingo Nishizume/Kyodo News via AP)
Mud-covered cars sit in Hiroshima, southwestern Japan, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. Rescuers were combing through mud-covered hillsides and along riverbanks Tuesday searching for dozens of people missing after heavy rains unleashed flooding and mudslides in southwestern Japan. (AP Photo/Haruka Nuga)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, listens to an evacuee during a visit to an evacuation center in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture, southwestern Japan, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. Abe visited the hard-hit city where a river broke through an embankment and swept through residential areas. (Shohei Miyano/Kyodo News via AP)
Police use sticks during a search operation at a mud-covered area in the aftermath of heavy rains in Kure, Hiroshima prefecture, southwestern Japan, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. Rescuers were combing through mud-covered hillsides and along riverbanks Tuesday searching for dozens of people missing after heavy rains unleashed flooding and mudslides in southwestern Japan. (Shingo Nishizume/Kyodo News via AP)
A residents clear the mud around a building in Hiroshima, southwestern Japan, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. Rescuers were combing through mud-covered hillsides and along riverbanks Tuesday searching for dozens of people missing after heavy rains unleashed flooding and mudslides in southwestern Japan. (AP Photo/Haruka Nuga)
Workers remove mud from the entrance to Kyoenji temple in Hiroshima, southwestern Japan, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. Rescuers were combing through mud-covered hillsides and along riverbanks Tuesday searching for dozens of people missing after heavy rains unleashed flooding and mudslides in southwestern Japan. (AP Photo/Haruka Nuga)
Destroyed houses are covered with mud at a damaged area in Hiroshima, southwestern Japan, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. Rescuers were combing through mud-covered hillsides and along riverbanks Tuesday searching for dozens of people missing after heavy rains unleashed flooding and mudslides in southwestern Japan. (AP Photo/Haruka Nuga)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talks with children evacuated to an evacuation center in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture, southwestern Japan, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. Abe visited the hard-hit city where a river broke through an embankment and swept through residential areas. (Shohei Miyano/Kyodo News via AP)
Rescuers work at a mudslide area during a search operation in Kumano town, Hiroshima prefecture, southwestern Japan, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. Rescuers were combing through mud-covered hillsides and along riverbanks Tuesday searching for dozens of people missing after heavy rains unleashed flooding and mudslides in southwestern Japan. (Kota Endo/Kyodo News via AP)
A man carries his bicycle on a mud-covered street in Hiroshima, southwestern Japan, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. Rescuers were combing through mud-covered hillsides and along riverbanks Tuesday searching for dozens of people missing after heavy rains unleashed flooding and mudslides in southwestern Japan. (AP Photo/Haruka Nuga)
Damaged houses and a mud-covered road are seen in the aftermath of heavy rains in Hiroshima, southwestern Japan, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. Rescuers were combing through mud-covered hillsides and along riverbanks Tuesday searching for dozens of people missing after heavy rains unleashed flooding and mudslides in southwestern Japan. (AP Photo/Haruka Nuga)

HIROSHIMA, Japan — Residents shoveled mud and debris to clear streets so they could get out for food and other supplies Wednesday in areas of western Japan hard hit by landslides and flooding that still swamped some areas.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited an evacuation center in the city of Kurashiki in Okayama prefecture, where more than 40 of the 176 victims died. He ducked in front of an elderly woman sitting on the floor, and pledged to her that his government will do its utmost to bring back her ordinary life as soon as possible. About 200 residents were taking refuge at the shelter he visited.

Tens of thousands of rescue and recovery workers and volunteers were searching for people still missing.

In areas where search-and-rescue operations had ended, construction workers and residents worked in neighborhoods to clear mud and debris and restore vehicle access to the outside and get supplies and food.

In Hiroshima's Asakita ward, resident Nobuaki Hyuga walked to a neighborhood convenience store but could only find ice cream and juices, so he had to go further to find bread and other foods. "We are cut off from the road and we can't go anywhere by car," Hyuga said.

Construction worker Fukuyoshi Doi volunteering to get that done, and supervised other volunteers who gathered to help.

"Mud and dirt is still blocking our local bus route, so we are trying to get that out of the way, so the road can be reopened for buses and cars," he said. "Once we get the mud out, I believe the rest of the work would pick up."

The government said 176 people have been confirmed dead after the record-setting rainfall last week caused severe flooding and landslides. Most of the deaths were in Hiroshima and the surrounding area, but the damage was widespread.

The government has mobilized 75,000 troops and emergency workers and some 80 helicopters for the search and rescue effort, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

Delivery companies Sagawa Express Co. and Yamato Transport Co. and cargo service Japan Freight Railway Co. said some of their shipments to and from the flooded areas have been suspended or reduced. Supermarkets have closed stores or shortened hours due to delivery delays and supply shortages.

Thousands of homes were still without clean water and electricity. Residents lined up for water under a scorching sun as temperatures rose to 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit), raising the risk of heat stroke.

Suga said earlier the government was spending 2 billion yen ($18 million) to hasten deliveries of supplies and other support for evacuation centers and residents.

Abe canceled a planned trip to Europe and the Middle East this week to oversee the emergency response.

___

Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo.

Must Read

New wave of anti-China activists set for Hong Kong vote win

Sep 5, 2016

A new wave of anti-China activists appeared headed for victory in Hong Kong's most crucial...

Hong Kong pro-democracy candidates retain veto in key vote

Sep 5, 2016

A group of young Hong Kong pro-democracy activists has pulled off a stunning election victory,...

Asian stocks drift as Fed rate outlook eases on service data

Sep 7, 2016

Asian stocks meandered Wednesday after a weak report on U.S. service companies reinforced...

US tycoon's China scholarship project opens doors in Beijing

Sep 10, 2016

A new scholarship program intended to rival the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships and build...

Alibaba fires 4 employees accused of stealing mooncakes

Sep 14, 2016

Four employees at Chinese internet giant Alibaba have lost their jobs after being accused of...