The rains are the deadliest weather disaster in Japan since two typhoons that hit back-to-back in August and September 2011, killing almost 100 people.
At least 148 people are dead in western Japan and dozens are still missing after record rainfall that sparked flash floods and mudslides over the weekend, officials said, according to broadcaster NHK.
"We had evacuation orders before and nothing happened, so I just thought this was going to be the same", said Kenji Ishii, 57, who ignored an order and stayed in his home with his wife and son.
Officials and media reports said at least 80 people were still unaccounted for, many of them in the hardest-hit Hiroshima area.
Authorities warned that landslides could strike even after rain subsides as the calamity shaped up to be potentially the worst in decades.
In one of the most dramatic rescues, patients and staff - some still in their pyjamas - were helped from the balcony of a hospital in the city of Kurashiki on Sunday and rowed to safety on military paddle boats.
With much of the affected area lacking fresh water and electricity and with temperatures and humidity soaring, the dangers of dehydration and water-born infections pose new risks. In Hiroshima, 12 people were caught up in landslides in the residential areas of Kawasumi in Kumano-cho section of Hiroshima. (Reuters/Issei Kato) A truck stranded by floods on July 9.
The town of Kaita, on the outskirts of Hiroshima, was also heavily damaged by flooding and landslides.
In the Mabi district of Kurashiki, the water left behind a fine yellow silt that has transformed the area into moonscape.
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The rain, which has been worst in western parts of the country, has completely blanketed some villages, forcing desperate residents to take shelter on their rooftops with flood water swirling below as they waited for rescue.
Images from Kuyashiki, a city on the southern coast of Okayama Prefecture, show cars overturned or buried in mud.
A resident walks across scattered debris in a flood hit area in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture.
According to data compiled by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, 79 rivers in 17 prefectures were flooded as of 4 a.m. Monday, and 2,330 hectares were flooded.
While authorities search for the missing, residents begin the cleanup, wading through flooded houses and streets.
People are rescued by volunteers and Ground Self-Defense Force members.
Kyoto, about 300km to the east of Hiroshima, has also been hit by downpours.
A total of 59 people were missing, the Yomiuri found.
"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.
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