A torrent of water gushing from a mountain destroys houses and triggers mudslides in Mihara, Hiroshima Prefecture, on July 7. (Takuji Hosomi)

At least 37 people were confirmed dead as rescue workers frantically searched July 7 for dozens of people missing in heavy rains that have inundated western Japan since early in the week, as more rainfall is forecast.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the rainy season front in western and eastern Japan will not ease up until the early hours of July 8, sparking fears of more rainfall and localized downpours in a broader area.

As of 6:30 p.m. on July 7, the whereabouts of at least 67 people could not be confirmed.

In Hiroshima Prefecture, 41 people were missing, while seven remained out of contact in Ehime Prefecture. In Okayama Prefecture, nine people are unaccounted for.

The dead include 16 in Ehime Prefecture and 13 in Hiroshima Prefecture.

The deluge, triggered by the seasonal rain front, brought mudslides and flooding across widespread areas from Shiga Prefecture to the east to Fukuoka Prefecture to the west due to the slow-moving rain front.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told an emergency news conference July 7 that 48,000 or so police officers, firefighters and Self-Defense Forces members had been mobilized to rescue people stranded in the disaster that has been unfolding since July 3.

Suga reported about 100 instances requiring rescue operations as of early July 7.

In Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, city officials said it was difficult to determine how many residents were actually missing. When the embankment of a river broke in the city, at least three homes were washed away. The whereabouts of two people remain unknown.

Some residents called for help while perched on rooftops, while others waited to be rescued by clinging to a tree in muddy, fast-flowing waters.

In the prefectural capital of Hiroshima, a car with a mother with her three children was swept away by flood waters in the city’s Aki Ward. The mother was rescued, but her children remain missing.

The heavy rains caused a suspension of bullet train services between Shin-Osaka and Kokura in Fukuoka Prefecture on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line from the first runs on July 7.

Operator West Japan Railway Co. said that as of noon it was impossible to say when services will resume.

Shinkansen services from Tokyo were only running to Shin-Osaka, not to stations westward.

The 24-hour outlook through noon of July 8 forecast 250 millimeters of rain in the Tokai and southern Kyushu regions; 200 ml in the Hokuriku and Shikoku regions; 150 ml in the Kinki and northern Kyushu regions; 120 ml in Hokkaido; 100 ml in the Tohoku, Kanto and Koshin regions; and 80 ml in the Chugoku region.