Search and rescue operations resumed Friday following massive landslides in Hiroshima, with firefighters and Self-Defense Forces members racing against time to find survivors.
Rescue activities had been temporarily halted due to the rain that started falling late Thursday. The local meteorological office issued a heavy rain warning in the western Japanese city at 5 a.m. Friday and warned of more landslides.
According to police and fire departments, a total of 39 people have been confirmed dead and 52 remain missing. There may be more people buried by mudslides but not yet reported missing.
The disaster was triggered by torrential rain that hit residential zones in mountainous areas from late Tuesday to early Wednesday.
Experts say the survival rate for people trapped without food or water in a disaster drops dramatically after the first 72 hours.
Disaster Management Minister Keiji Furuya said during a government meeting in the morning that rescue operations could be prolonged. He ordered government offices to make all-out efforts to rescue the missing and to prevent the damage from further spreading.
According to the Hiroshima city task force dealing with the disaster, landslips have been observed at about 170 locations and damage to roads and bridges have been found at 290 places.