Thousands of rescuers are continuing to dig through twisted wood and mud after floods and landslides caused by freak rains. Parts of Fukuoka, on the southwestern island of Kyushu, were hit by 593mm (23 inches) of rain in 48 hours. This is well over a month's rainfall for a usual July in the area, the meteorological agency said, and equivalent to one year's average rainfall in London.

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A resident checks a collapsed road side near a damaged house following heavy flooding in Asakura, Fukuoka prefectureKazuhiro Nogi/AFP
Japan floods
An aerial view of a flooded area in Asakura, Fukuoka prefectureJiji Press/AFP

Roads and bridges were damaged or swept away, and dozens of vehicles and houses were destroyed and half covered with mud.

Rescue workers found four more bodies on Friday (7 July), bringing the death toll to six, with about 22 more missing. Troops and rescuers have now gained access to some of the villages that had been cut off and a rescuing more people and searching for more victims.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said 12,000 troops and rescuers are focusing on remote villages where hundreds are still stranded. The operation has been slowed by mud and floodwaters and more flooding was forecast for the country's east. Residents from remote villages are being airlifted by military helicopters while soldiers waded through floodwaters carrying elderly residents on their backs.

Japan floods
Members of the Japan Self-Defence Forces winch a resident to safety in an area hit by heavy rain in Asakura, Fukuoka PrefectureJapan Self-Defence Forces/Reuters
Japan floods
A resident is rescued by members of the Japan Self-Defence ForcesJapan Self-Defence Forces
Japan floods
Policemen and members of self-defence forces take part in search operations at a damaged area in the village of Toho, Fukuoka PrefectureKyodo/Reuters
Japan floods
Destroyed houses are seen at an area hit by heavy rain at Haki district in Asakura, Fukuoka PrefectureIssei Kato/Reuters
Japan floods
Debris swept by flash floods is seen inside a gymnasium at Masue elementary school at Haki district in Asakura, Fukuoka PrefectureIssei Kato/Reuters
Japan floods
A mud0stained blackboard is seen inside Masue elementary school at Haki district in Asakura, Fukuoka PrefectureIssei Kato/Reuters
Japan floods
A firefighter conducts rescue operations in an area damaged by heavy rain in Asakura, Fukuoka PrefectureIssei Kato/Reuters
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Members of the Japanese Self-Defence Forces clear a road with a bulldozer in a flooded area in Toho village, Fukuoka prefectureJiji Press/AFP
Japan floods
Police and members of Self-Defence Forces take part in search operations for missing people at flood area in Toho village, Fukuoka prefectureJiji Press/AFP
Japan floods
An elderly woman is helped by police officers after being evacuated by a military helicopterJiji Press/AFP
Japan floods
A dog is transported by helicopter arrives at a helipad in Asakura, Fukuoka prefectureKazuhiro Nogi/AFP
Japan floods
Policemen return a rescued dog to the owner after arriving at a helipad in Asakura, Fukuoka prefectureKazuhiro Nogi/AFP
Japan floods
An evacuee transported by a Japan Coast Guard helicopter arrives at a helipad in Asakura, Fukuoka prefectureKazuhiro Nogi/AFP
Japan floods
Vehicles are buried in the mud following heavy flooding in Asakura, Fukuoka prefectureKazuhiro Nogi/AFP
Japan floods
A resident walks past collapsed houses following heavy flooding in Asakura, Fukuoka prefectureKazuhiro Nogi/AFP
Japan floods
A damaged bridge is seen in Asakura, Fukuoka prefectureKazuhiro Nogi/AFP

Fukuoka and neighbouring Oita, the hardest hit by the rain, are both largely rural prefectures but rivers are also rising in the city of Kitakyushu, which has a population of some 950,000 and issued evacuation orders for several districts. The rain was caused by a low pressure area over the Pacific that fed warm, moist air into Japan's seasonal rainy front.