Correction: This update has been corrected to note that fears of fresh landslides have halted rescue operations. The earlier update stated a fresh landslide had hit the region.
Update as of 2:51 a.m. EDT: Fears of a fresh landslide in Hiroshima on Friday halted the search for 50 more people missing since Wednesday, Agence France-Presse, or AFP, reported.
"Operations in (two districts) were halted as mountains there were becoming misshapen," a spokesperson for the local police said, according to AFP, adding that the rescuers too been "evacuated as there is a risk of a fresh landslide."
The death toll from a landslide in Hiroshima, Japan, now stands at 39 while 52 people have been declared missing, reports said Friday, citing local officials. However, the number of missing people could rise to more than 80 as the region, soaked by days of torrential rain, continues to experience bad weather.
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Over 4,000 people were told to evacuate their homes as the constant downpour increased the risk of further landslides and hampered rescue operations. Nearly 2,500 police and military officials were searching for missing people in the region, according to Associated Press, or AP. The rains, which triggered landslides in Hiroshima, began Wednesday.
"We initially counted only the people who were certain to be missing, such as those witnessed being carried away in gushing water," a spokesman for Hiroshima prefecture police said, according to Agence France-Presse, adding: "As we continued to investigate and assess the situation, the number rose."
The Meteorological Agency said that Hiroshima and the area within a two-mile radius from the city center received nearly 240 mm (9 inches) of rain in the 24 hours until Wednesday morning, and nearly half of it came down in just an hour, Reuters reported.
“There was a really strange smell, a very raw, earthy smell. When we opened a window to see what was going on, the entire hillside just came down, with a crackling noise, a thundering noise," a woman told a local news network, according to Reuters.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been criticized for spending time playing golf and for returning to his vacation villa after only a rushed visit to Tokyo following the disaster, Reuters reported.