Pope 'deeply saddened’ for Japan’s flood victims

Cardinal Parolin signs message full of encouragement and blessing for relief efforts. Meanwhile, rescuers are carrying out a house-to-house search for survivors, with dwindling hope. The death toll rises to 156 but is expected to get worse. Thousands are in shelters. Authorities warn against the effects of 35-degree heat on construction workers.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis has expressed his deep sadness over the fate of flood victims in Japan and voiced his closeness and solidarity for all those affected in a telegram signed by the Cardinal Pietro Parolin Secretary of State.

"Deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and of the injury caused by the serious floods following the heavy rains in Japan, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this tragedy,” said the message.

“His Holiness prays especially for the repose of the deceased, the healing of those injured and the consolation of all those who grieve. The Holy Father likewise offers encouragement to the civil authorities and all those involved in the search and rescue efforts as they assist the victims of this disaster. Upon all he willingly invokes abundant blessings.”

Meanwhile, rescuers are carrying out house-to-house searches in the increasingly unlikely hope of finding survivors.

"It's what we call a grid operation, where we are checking every single house to see if there are people still trapped inside them," said an official with the local Okayama prefecture government. "We know it's a race against time, we are trying as hard as we can."

The deadly floods and landslides have claimed so far 156 lives in what is Japan's worst weather-related disaster since 1982, a toll bound to rise.

It is feared that the elderly and weaker people may not have escaped before the rains gained strength and, in some cases, dragged wooden houses away.

Thousands of people remain in shelters, and local authorities in some areas were offering drinking water and bathing services for those without their own supply.

Japan’s summer heat is compounding the problem. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga warned that people working in construction could suffer as temperatures are expected reach 35 Celsius in some areas.

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