Photo/IllutrationVolunteers remove debris in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, on July 14. (The Asahi Shimbun)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Despite scorching midsummer heat, thousands of volunteers turned up to help clear sand, mud and debris in flood-hit western prefectures.

At least 3,600 people worked as volunteers in Okayama and Ehime prefectures on July 14, the first day of a three-day holiday weekend, according to local social welfare associations.

Other than Hiroshima, Okayama and Ehime were the prefectures hardest hit by torrential rains in early July.

"I was rendered speechless by the sheer amount of earth and sand," said a 44-year-old nutritionist, who worked as a volunteer in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture. "I think we need help from many other people."

In the widely flooded Mabicho district of Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, 1,118 people came to help.

In the district, 14 people, including volunteers, apparently suffered heatstroke and were taken to the hospital by 4 p.m., according to firefighters. Kurashiki recorded 34.9 degrees, the highest temperature for the city this year.

As of 1:45 p.m. on July 14, the death toll stood at 209, including 99 in Hiroshima Prefecture, 60 in Okayama Prefecture and 26 in Ehime Prefecture, according to the National Police Agency.

The whereabouts of at least 26 were unknown as of 7 p.m. July 14.