Pictures show homes and cars submerged in floodwater, soldiers rescuing stranded residents, and aerial shots show the full devastation caused by mudslides and heavy rainfall.

The rain set off landslides and flooded rivers, trapping many people in their houses or on rooftops.

The rain began late last week as the remnants of a typhoon fed into a seasonal rainy front, with humid, warm air from the Pacific making it still more active.

Japan’s government set up an emergency management centre at the prime minister’s office and some 54,000 rescuers from the military, police and fire departments were dispatched across a wide swathe of southwestern and western Japan.

Emergency warnings for severe rain remained in effect for three prefectures, with 300 mm (11 inches) predicted to fall by Monday morning in parts of the smallest main island of Shikoku.

Evacuation orders remained in place for some 2 million people and another 2.3 million were advised to evacuate, although rain had stopped and floodwaters retreated in some areas.

Landslide warnings were issued in over a quarter of the nation’s prefectures.

The death toll is the highest caused by water disasters since 2014 when 77 people were killed in heavy rain which set off landslides in Hiroshima in western Japan.

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