Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has cancelled a four-country foreign trip as the death toll from flooding and landslides caused by record rains hit 100, local media said Monday.
Abe had been expected to visit Belgium, France, Saudi Arabia and Egypt from Wednesday. His office declined to comment on the reports.
Abe reportedly told the deputy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that he had "no choice but to cancel" as the disaster continues to unfold, Kyodo news agency said.
Public broadcaster NHK and several other media also reported the trip had been cancelled because of the crisis.
Abe is now expected to visit some of the areas worst affected by the flash flooding and landslides as early as Wednesday, the reports said.
He had been due to start the trip in Belgium on Wednesday, where he was to sign a massive free trade agreement with the European Union.
Desperate relatives braced for bad news Monday as rescuers dug through landslides in the wake of severe floods that have killed at least 100 people and left swathes of central and western Japan under water.
As the floods receded, emergency workers reached previously cut-off places where authorities fear they could find more bodies in the wreckage of homes devastated by rivers of mud and debris.
Rescue workers said it was still possible that survivors could be found, but acknowledged the odds were getting longer.
At the end of last week rivers engorged by more than a metre (three feet) of rain burst their banks, engulfing entire villages and forcing people to rooftops to await evacuation by helicopter.
Hillsides gave way under the weight of water, with deadly landslides crushing wooden houses and erasing roads.
The government said with many people still missing, the tally of those dead was expected to rise further.
Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said 73,000 police, firemen and troops were taking part in the rescue effort, with 700 helicopters deployed to help.
In Kumano, soldiers and other emergency workers were using diggers to clear crushed cars and mangled homes and chainsaws to cut up tree trunks.
But they were moving carefully, looking as they went for survivors, or the remains of those killed in the disaster.
In one part of Kumano, the nose of a white car was just visible underneath the top floor of a home that had been torn from the rest of the building and swept down a hillside.
Water was still flowing from the surrounding hillsides around the feet of shellshocked residents, some of whom wept as they saw their damaged district.
In neighbouring Okayama prefecture, rescue workers flew in helicopters over areas that are still submerged and otherwise unreachable, looking for signs of life.For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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