Tokyo (Agencies): At least 38 people were killed , more than 50 were missing and four in critical condition as torrential rain pounds western and central Japan .

Japan’s Meteorological Agency retained special weather warnings for three prefectures in the main island of Honshu, down from five, and urged vigilance against landslides, rising rivers and strong winds amid what it called “historic” rains.

In Motoyama, a town on Shikoku island, about 600 km (373 miles) from the capital Tokyo, 583 mm (23 inches) of rain fell between Friday and Saturday morning, the agency said.

Although a weather front had settled between western and eastern Japan , there was a risk heavy rains would continue as warm air flowed towards the front, it added, with already-saturated areas facing more rain on Sunday.

Among the dead were a man who fell from a bridge into a river in western Hiroshima city, and a 77-year-old man in Takashima, 56 km (35 miles) east of the ancient capital of Kyoto, who was swept into a canal as he worked to remove debris, NHK said.

Four people in Ehime, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures were in critical condition after being injured in landslides, it added.

By Saturday morning, more than 1.6 million people had been ordered to evacuate their homes for fear of flooding and further landslides, with 3.1 million more advised to leave, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said about 48,000 police, firefighters and members of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces were responding to appeals for help.