A man walks past debris from a heavy rain in Hiroshima, southwestern Japan. Picture: Ryosuke Ozawa/Kyodo News via AP
A man walks past debris from a heavy rain in Hiroshima, southwestern Japan. Picture: Ryosuke Ozawa/Kyodo News via AP
People walk around a housing area after flood waters receded in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, western Japan. Picture: Yohei Nishimura/Kyodo News via AP
People walk around a housing area after flood waters receded in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, western Japan. Picture: Yohei Nishimura/Kyodo News via AP
Rescuers use a drone during a search operation for missing person in Hiroshima. Picture: Kyodo News via AP
Rescuers use a drone during a search operation for missing person in Hiroshima. Picture: Kyodo News via AP
Rescuers clear the debris of damaged houses and vehicles after a mudslide hit Hiroshima. Picture: Haruka Nuga/AP
Rescuers clear the debris of damaged houses and vehicles after a mudslide hit Hiroshima. Picture: Haruka Nuga/AP
Cars sit on a damaged road covered with mud after a mudslide caused by heavy rains hit Hiroshima, southwestern Japan. Picture: Haruka Nuga/AP
Cars sit on a damaged road covered with mud after a mudslide caused by heavy rains hit Hiroshima, southwestern Japan. Picture: Haruka Nuga/AP
Rescuers are combing through mud-covered hillsides and along riverbanks searching for dozens of people missing after heavy rains unleashed flooding and mudslides in southwestern Japan. Picture: Haruka Nuga/AP
Rescuers are combing through mud-covered hillsides and along riverbanks searching for dozens of people missing after heavy rains unleashed flooding and mudslides in southwestern Japan. Picture: Haruka Nuga/AP
Akira Tanimoto, right, with his wife Chieko Tanimoto watch a birdcage in which his yellow and green parakeets chirp at an elementary school-turned evacuation centre in Hiroshima. Picture: Haruka Nuga/AP
Akira Tanimoto, right, with his wife Chieko Tanimoto watch a birdcage in which his yellow and green parakeets chirp at an elementary school-turned evacuation centre in Hiroshima. Picture: Haruka Nuga/AP
An evacuee lies on a bed while watching his pet dog at an evacuation centre in Soja, Okayama Prefecture. Picture: Takaki Yajima/Kyodo News via AP
An evacuee lies on a bed while watching his pet dog at an evacuation centre in Soja, Okayama Prefecture. Picture: Takaki Yajima/Kyodo News via AP
Mud waters cover streets after the Enoki River running through the town overflowed, in Fuchu, Hiroshima Prefecture. Picture: Shingo Nishizume/Kyodo News via AP
Mud waters cover streets after the Enoki River running through the town overflowed, in Fuchu, Hiroshima Prefecture. Picture: Shingo Nishizume/Kyodo News via AP

Hiroshima, Japan - Akira Tanimoto says his apartment narrowly survived the floods and mudslide at his residential complex over the weekend, and even if he wants to go back there with his wife and two pet birds, he can't because there is no water, power or food there.

After their desperate run from the floods that had hit the apartment complex where about a dozen of his neighbours were found dead, he returned to his place Monday to check on his apartment. Luckily it was almost intact. He also had to bring with him the beloved birds that he had to leave behind.

Tanimoto wants to go back there with his wife, Chieko, and their yellow and green parakeets, Pi-chan and Kyako-chan but said it would take a few weeks until they get the utility services back and clean the place.

"I can't go back if I wanted to," the 66-year-old retired Self-Defense serviceman said, holding a bird cage, in which the birds chirped as he spoke. "Electricity is out, water is cut off and there is no information there."

Rescuers were combing through mud-covered hillsides and along riverbanks Tuesday searching for dozens of people missing after heavy rains unleashed flooding and mudslides in southwestern Japan, where the death toll has exceeded 130.

More than 50 people were unaccounted for as of Tuesday morning, many in the hardest-hit Hiroshima area. At Tanimoto's apartment complex, about a dozen victims have been found. He and his wife grabbed the minimum necessities and walked about 1.5 kilometres (1 mile) to a fire engine Sunday after the floods and mudslides hit the complex. Debris and mudslides had stopped right outside the couple's apartment door.

Akira Tanimoto holds a birdcage in which his yellow and green parakeets chirp at an elementary school-turned evacuation centre in Hiroshima. Tanimoto says he is the lucky one to have survived and evacuate with his wife from an apartment complex hit by floodwater and mudslide, where some of his neighbours lost their lives or got their homes damaged after heavy rains unleashed flooding and mudslides in southwestern Japan. Picture: Haruka Nuga/AP

He thinks he and his wife are the lucky ones. "Some of our neighbours had their apartments destroyed, others are still looking for their families. So we are lucky. Our parakeets even survived," Tanimoto said.

Work under the scorching sun was hampered by mud and heat, and shipments of relief goods were delayed by damaged roads and transportation systems, especially in areas isolated by the disaster.

Residents sheltering at the Yano school were provided with water, blankets and cellphone chargers. But a local volunteer, Yuki Sato, 25, said local convenience stores were obviously in short supply, so she didn't buy anything there because she wanted to save them for the evacuees or others who can't drive out of town.

Water and other relief supplies were scarce in some of the other disaster-hit areas.

"No water, food, nothing gets here," Ichiro Tanabe, a 73-year-old resident in the neighbouring port city of Kure, told the Mainichi newspaper. "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. Regional supermarket chains such as Every Co. said one outlet is closed and several other outlets shortened service hours due to delivery delays and supply shortage.

Thousands of homes were still without clean water and electricity in Hiroshima and other hard-hit areas. Residents lined up for water under the scorching sun as temperatures rose to 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit), raising risks of heat stroke.

In another hard-hit town, Ozu in Ehime prefecture, water supplies were entirely cut off and residents could not clean their mud-stained homes or even their clothes. At a major supermarket in town, employees sold bottled water and tea, cups of noodles and other preserved foods that survived the floods, while employees cleaned damaged merchandise, throwing items into dozens of plastic bags.

The landslides and flooding across much of western Japan have killed at least 134 people, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference. Another seven were presumed dead.

Some of the thousands of residents who had been evacuated, some rescued from their rooftops, began cleaning up after the rain stopped Monday.

A car is covered with mud as houses are damaged by a mudslide caused by heavy rains in Hiroshima. Picture: Haruka Nuga/AP

Suga said the government set up a task force and was spending 2 billion yen ($18 million) to hasten deliveries of supplies and other support for evacuation centres and residents in the region.

Earlier Tuesday, the Self-Defense Force ferried seven oil trucks from Hiroshima to Kure, a major industrial city whose 226,000 residents were cut off from the rest of the prefecture due to the disaster.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cancelled a planned July 11-18 trip to Europe and the Middle East to oversee the emergency response. The government mobilized 75,000 troops and emergency workers and nearly 80 helicopters for the search and rescue effort, Suga said.

Assessment of the casualties was slowed by the scale of the area affected. Officials in Ehime prefecture asked the government to review its weather warning system, noting that rain warnings were issued after damage and casualties already had occurred. The Japan Meteorological Agency said as much as 10 centimetres (3 inches) of rain per hour fell on large parts of southwestern Japan.

AP