Japan was hit with heavy rainfall this weekend, forcing over two million people to leave their homes and leaving a rising death toll in its wake. As of Sunday evening, local Japanese media reports say at least 88 people have died and 58 are missing, according to TIME.
Japanese broadcasters report that over 14 inches of rain fell between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. in the city of Uwakima alone. For context, that is 1.5 times the average monthly rainfall for July in just two hours.
Countless Japanese citizens have been stranded by the record-setting rainfall and are in need of rescue. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly mobilized 54,000 personnel for search-and-rescue efforts and set up an emergency task force for the first time since the Kumamoto earthquakes in 2016. HuffPost reports that evacuation orders or advisories were issued for 4.72 million people.
Abe told reporters on Sunday that the rescuers are battling time to save people in need of help. He explained, "Rescues, saving lives and evacuations are a race against time. There are still many people whose safety has yet to be confirmed."
"The record rainfalls in various parts of the country have caused rivers to burst their banks, and triggered large scale floods and landslides in several areas," Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga added, according to CNN.
The severe weather took many people in southwest Japan by surprise. Eiko Yamane, a resident of Hiroshima, explained to TIME, "Hiroshima prefecture is normally blessed with mild weather and has few natural disasters so people here have never experienced a situation like this. I guess they’re in a panic."
Some Hiroshima residents compared it to a similar crisis that resulted in 2014 when heavy rain caused landslides that killed 77 people. "It was heavier rain than four years ago. I was scared, thinking what would become of me," a 71-year-old man told local reporters.