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TOKYO – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Hiroshima on Monday as rescuers expanded their search for dozens still missing from landslides around the western Japanese city that killed at least 50 people.
Rain showers were raising risks of more slides and hampering the search effort, and also triggering slides in other parts of Japan. The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said Monday that two women died after a hill collapsed on their home on the northern island of Hokkaido on Sunday.
In Hiroshima, 38 people were still missing after rain-soaked slopes swept through several neighborhoods on Aug. 20. Authorities announced the names of those believed missing on Monday, appealing for information, as the search was extended for bodies that might have been swept further away as the slides rushed through.
About 3,300 rescue workers were combing through debris with picks, shovels and chain saws.
Abe postponed an inspection visit Sunday to avoid interfering with disaster relief operations, but met with a disaster task force Monday in Hiroshima.
"We want to restore peoples' safe, normal lives as soon as possible," he said.
Abe cut short his summer holiday but has drawn some criticism for briefly continuing a golf game after hearing of the disaster.
Landslides are a frequent occurrence in densely populated, mountainous Japan, and persisting unstable weather conditions continued to pose a threat in many areas, including Hiroshima, where rescue workers were occasionally suspending work in some places due to fears of further collapses on steep hillsides.
Authorities are considering setting up an early warning system for landslides, reports said Monday.