Tokyo, July 9 (IANS) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday cancelled his trip to Europe and the Middle East to attend to the search and rescue operations underway in the country pummeled by torrential rain.
According to Toshihiro Nikai, Secretary General of Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the Prime Minister was quoted as saying that he had “no choice but to cancel” his trip as the government stepped up its response to the disaster.
The Prime Minister had planned to visit Belgium, France, Saudi Arabia and Egypt from Wednesday. He is now said to be arranging visits to the regions in western Japan hardest hit by landslides and floods, such as Hiroshima Prefecture, where 44 people out of a confirmed 112 nationwide thus far, have been confirmed dead, Xinhua news agency reported.
Earlier, Abe told a meeting of a disaster response unit that the number of rescue personnel, including Self-Defence Force members, sent to the scene had increased to 73,000.
Public broadcaster NHK reported that three people remain in a critical condition and 79 unaccounted for.
According to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, evacuation orders or advisories had been issued to nearly six million people spanning 19 prefectures.
As of Monday morning, 23,000 people were still staying at emergency evacuation shelters, with blazing heat now compounding the problem.
Along with Hiroshima, other hard-hit regions where fatalities were reported included Okayama, Ehime, Kyoto, Yamaguchi, Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Hyogo, Shiga, Gifu, Kochi and Saga prefectures.