TOKYO - Three people were found dead near rain-swollen rivers in Japan on Friday, officials said, as record downpours prompted authorities to order more than 210,000 people to evacuate their homes, with some areas hit by more than a metre of rainfall.

The body of a woman was found by a river in central Japan's Gifu while a 59-year-old man was confirmed dead after being found by a river in western Hiroshima prefecture, local police said.

A 52-year-old woman in the Kyoto region who went missing on Thursday night was found dead by a river in neighbouring Osaka prefecture, according to police. Police said they were investigating how the three died. On Thursday, a construction worker was killed when he was swept away by flood waters in the Hyogo region. Several people have been reported missing, with landslides reported in some areas and flash floods in others. A total of 230 people in western Kochi prefecture were unable to evacuate as roads were blocked by landslide, a local official said.

Authorities announced new evacuation orders on Friday, bringing the number of people told to leave their homes to 210,853, most of them in western Japan.

The Japan Meteorological Agency upgraded its warning to "special", the highest level, in southern Fukuoka, Saga and Nagasaki prefectures.

The special warning is issued when the amount of rain is expected to be the highest in decades.

"Fukuoka, Saga and Nagasaki are seeing heavy rain that they have never experienced," agency official Yasushi Kajiwara told reporters. "It's in an unusual state with an imminent, grave danger," he said.

Yanase in Umaji village, Kochi prefecture, saw 1,190 millimetres (47 inches) of rain in 72 hours, which is double of the total amount that usually falls in the month of July, according to the JMA website.

The downpours temporarily halted bullet train services in western Japan, which resumed on Friday.