At least 51 people have been injured and an additional 25 people are missing, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency of Japan. (PHOTOS)

Heavy rain continued to lash western Japan on Saturday, leaving at least 17 dead and more than 50 missing in landslides and flooding that smashed homes and swept away cars.

Around 48,000 members of the Self-Defense Forces, police and firefighting service took part in searching for trapped, wounded or dead people. Heavy rainfall had damaged more than 500 homes and injured at least 40 people as of 7 a.m., according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

Evacuation orders or advisories were issued for over three million households, as flooding and

landslides intensified in Hiroshima and Okayama prefectures in particular.

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Of the 17 people killed, 10 were confirmed dead in Hiroshima, local authorities said, with the rest dying in Osaka, Shiga, Hyogo, Okayama and Ehime prefectures.

In Hiroshima, a woman in her 40s died in a landslide and a man found in a swollen river was confirmed dead, while another man died after he called a fire station to report that a mudslide had struck his home.

The government had set up a liaison unit in the crisis management center of the prime minister’s office to gather information, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference.

More than 100 rescue requests had been received, he added.

At a meeting with ministers, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe directed them to “prioritize lifesaving and send rescue crews without delay.”

Emergency warnings were lifted in Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki and Hiroshima but remained in place in four other prefectures including Okayama.

Since the downpour began Thursday, the weather agency has forecast record amounts of rain through Sunday, warning of flooding, mudslides and lightning strikes.

Over 90 millimeters of rain per hour was recorded in the city of Susaki, Kochi Prefecture, and more than 70 mm in the city of Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

In the 24-hour period through noon on Sunday, 250 mm of rain is forecast in the Tokai and southern Kyushu regions, 200 mm in the Shikoku and Hokuriku regions, and 150 mm in the Kinki and northern Kyushu regions.

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