HEAVY rainfall has hammered southern Japan for the third day, prompting new disaster warnings as more downpours are expected.

More than 60 people are dead and dozens missing after record rainfall caused rivers to burst their banks in Hiroshima and other areas.

“We’ve never experienced this kind of rain before,” a weather official said.

Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the whereabouts of 92 people are unknown, mostly in Hiroshima.

More than 100 reports of casualties had been received, such as cars being swept away, he said.

“Rescue efforts are a battle with time,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said. “The rescue teams are doing their utmost.”

The Japan Meteorological Agency said three hours of rainfall in one area in Kochi prefecture reached an accumulated 26.3cm (10.4in), the highest since such records started in 1976.

The assessment of casualties has been difficult because of the widespread area affected by the rainfall, flooding and landslides.

Authorities warned landslides could strike even after rain subsides as the calamity shaped up to be potentially the worst in decades. Kochi prefecture, on Shikoku, issued landslide warnings almost over the entire island.

A shop worker, who had fled to a nearby rooftop, said water had reached as high as his head.