Tokyo, July 8: The death toll has risen to 81 after record torrential rains pummelled wide swathes of Japan since Thursday, triggering landslides and flooding, the media reported on Sunday. According to Japan’s public broadcaster NHK, 78 people have been confirmed dead, eight people sustained serious injuries and at least 57 people are unaccounted for, reports Xinhua news agency.

Of the 78 people confirmed dead, 35 were in Hiroshima prefecture which was hit hardest by the heavy rain and landslides, 20 in Ehime prefecture, while people were also reported dead in the prefectures of Fukuoka, Kyoto, Okayama, Gifu, Kochi, Shiga, Hyogo, and Yamaguchi in western and southwestern Japan, said NHK.

Some 54,000 members of the police, fire departments, Self-Defence Forces and the Japan Coast Guard have been involved in search efforts for the people trapped or wounded in landslides and flooding triggered by the heavy rain.

By Sunday evening, 2.5 million people in 15 prefectures were still under evacuation orders. According to Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, the record rain had caused land disasters such as landslides at 201 locations in 28 of Japan’s 47 prefectures.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said an active seasonal rain front had been causing torrential rain in most eastern and western regions of Japan since Thursday. The agency has warned that Japan’s Kinki region, which includes Kyoto, Hyogo and Osaka prefectures, could be particularly hard-hit by the downpour, escalating the risk of floods, landslides, lightning and tornadoes.

Rivers from Hokkaido to Kyushu have been reported as running above flood warning levels and the weather agency has warned of further landslides possibly being triggered by the record-levels of rainfall. Transportation services have been severely disrupted since Thursday, with Shinkansen bullet train services partially suspended in most parts of western Japan and major arterial highways partially closed.

Manufacturing was also hit hard by the heavy downpour and flooding, as major carmakers such as Mazda Motor Corp and Mitsubishi Motors Corp and manufacturer such as Panasonic Corp suspending operations at some plants in western Japan.