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Death toll rises to 8, over 50 missing amid western Japan heavy rains

This photo taken from a Kyodo News helicopter on July 6, 2018, shows houses damaged by a landslide following torrential rain in Kitakyushu, southwestern Japan. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The death toll from heavy rains rose to eight with at least two others feared dead and more than 50 missing, as downpours continued lashing western Japan on Saturday.

Nearly 5,000 members of the Self-Defense Forces, police and firefighting service took part in searching for people trapped, wounded or dead. Heavy rainfall had damaged more than 500 homes and injured at least 40 people as of 7:00 a.m., according to the government.

Evacuation orders or advisories were issued to over 3 million households as flooding and landslides intensified in wider areas, in Hiroshima and Okayama prefectures in particular.

Of the eight people killed, five were confirmed dead in Hiroshima, the local government said, with the rest in Osaka, Shiga and Hyogo prefectures.

The government set up a liaison unit at the crisis management center of the prime minister's office to gather information, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference.

Emergency warnings were lifted in Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki and Hiroshima but remain in place in four other prefectures including Okayama.

Since the downpour began Thursday, the weather agency has forecast record amounts of rain through Sunday, warning of flooding, mudslides and lightning strikes.

The agency warned of potential heavy rain of up to 80 millimeters per hour in some areas. In the 24-hour period through 6 a.m. on Sunday, 300 millimeters of rain is forecast in the Shikoku and northern Kyushu regions, 250 mm in the southern Kyushu and Tokai regions, and 200 mm in the Chugoku, Kinki and Hokuriku regions.

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