It's the highest death toll from a flood-related disaster in Japan since 1982.
And the death toll was expected to rise further, with local media reporting almost 90 people killed and over 50 others unaccounted for. In some areas, hills collapsed under the weight of water, causing deadly landslides that crushed homes and took out roads.
"We know it's a race against time, we are trying as hard as we can".
About 200 residents were taking refuge at the shelter he visited.
Construction worker Fukuyoshi Doi volunteering to get that done, and supervised other volunteers who gathered to help.
(Reuters/Issei Kato) Local residents receive emergency water supply near a flooded area at Mihara Daini junior high school, in Hiroshima Prefecture on July 9. "We are going to be all dried up if we continue to be isolated".
Delivery companies Sagawa Express Co and Yamato Transport Co and cargo service Japan Freight Railway Co said some of their shipments to and from the flooded areas have been suspended or reduced.
According to the latest update, 57 citizens are still missing and tens of thousands are still evacuated in safe areas. Residents lined up for water under the scorching sun as temperatures rose to 35 degrees, raising risks of heat stroke.
Police use sticks during a search operation at a mud-covered area in the aftermath of heavy rains in Kure, Hiroshima prefecture, southwestern Japan, Wednesday, July 11, 2018.
Around 240,000 homes were cut off from water in western Japan and transportation systems were also severely disrupted.
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"Without water, we can not really clean anything up".
"It is an undeniable fact that this sort of disaster due to torrential, unprecedented rains is becoming more frequent in recent years", Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference in Tokyo.
Authorities on Sunday ordered evacuations for up to 5.9 million people in 19 nearby prefectures.
The number of people in shelters has dropped from 30,000 on Sunday to about 6,700 people on Thursday morning, according to Fire and Disaster Management Agency.
Abe also said the government plans to designate the torrential rain that triggered mass-flooding and landslides a "disaster of extreme severity".
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited an evacuation center in the city of Kurashiki in Okayama prefecture, where more than 40 of the 176 victims died.
The scale of the disaster means the process of returning to normal life will be slow, officials said.
"We've never experienced this kind of rain before", a weather official said.
Dozens of people remain missing and more than 200,000 households are without water, the government said on Thursday.
A vehicle sits submerged in mud following a landslide, July 10, 2018, in Yanohigashi near Hiroshima, Japan.