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Japan floods and landslides kill dozens; millions evacuated

By Yoko Wakatsuki and Junko Ogura, CNN

    (CNN) -- Heavy rains pounded southwest Japan, triggering flooding and landslides that killed 57 people and forced 2 million others to flee their homes.

At least 22 people have been reported missing following the weekend flooding, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency of Japan.

"The record rainfalls in various parts of the country have caused rivers to burst their banks, and triggered large scale floods and landslides in several areas," Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Sunday.

Hundreds of homes have been destroyed or damaged. In all, eight prefectures have been affected, including Kyoto and Hiroshima.

The Japan Meteorological Agency upgraded its alert system to the highest level in large areas of western Japan, while lifting the warning in other regions.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported about 364 millimeters (14.3 inches) of rain fell between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. in the city of Uwajima -- approximately 1.5 times the average monthly rainfall for July.

In Sukumo City in Kochi prefecture, 263 millimeters (10.3 inches) of rain fell in two hours, NHK reported.

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

At least 4 million people have been advised to evacuate surrounding areas. Government officials are warning people in affected areas they are at risk for landslides, flooding, wind gusts and other extreme weather conditions.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said 54,000 personnel had been mobilized for search-and-rescue efforts, NHK reported.

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