Two people dead and 20 still missing as rescuers search for survivors after a landslide hit the city of Atami.
Rescuers in a Japanese holiday town hit by a deadly landslide searched for survivors on Sunday, climbing through cracked roofs and checking cars thrown at swallowed buildings as rain whipped the area.
Two people have been confirmed dead after Saturday’s disaster at the Atami hot spring in central Japan, with another 10 rescued and about 20 still missing, a local government official said.
The landslide, triggered by days of heavy rain, hit Saturday morning, razing houses on the hill and turning residential areas into a swamp that stretched as far as the nearby coast.
“It is possible that the number of damaged houses and buildings could reach 130. I regret the loss of lives,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told ministers at an emergency meeting.
“This rainy season front is expected to continue to cause heavy rains in many areas. There are fears that land disasters could occur even when the rain stops,” he warned.
About 1,000 rescuers, including 140 military personnel, took part in the relief efforts, a Shizuoka prefecture official told AFP news agency.
“We are doing our best to look for survivors as quickly as possible while we carry out the operation very carefully as it is still raining,” he added.
The two confirmed dead people, both women, had been dragged into the sea and were found by the Coast Guard, said Tatsushi Ueda, a Shizuoka prefecture officer in charge of disaster prevention.
Of the ten who were rescued, one suffered minor injuries. In Atami, 121 people had been evacuated, Ueda said.
They feared more landslides
Atami, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) southwest of Tokyo, recorded 313 millimeters of rainfall in just 48 hours through Saturday, above the July average monthly total of 242.5 millimeters, according to the public broadcaster NHK.
Much of Japan is currently in a time of annual rainfall, lasting several weeks and often causing floods and landslides.
Scientists say climate change is intensifying the phenomenon because a warmer atmosphere contains more water, causing more intense rainfall.
A rainstorm is expected across the main island of Japan in the coming days.
“Landslides can occur over and over again in the same place, even if the rain stops. Residents and rescuers should remain on alert, “Takeo Moriwaki, a professor of geotechnical engineering at the Hiroshima Institute of Technology, told AFP.
NHK said Sunday that at least seven other landslides had been reported across Japan.
The highest evacuation alert, which urges people to “ensure safety as a matter of urgency,” was issued after the disaster in Atami, which has 20,000 homes.
At the city’s shelters, survivors wearing masks stayed away from other families for fear of coronavirus infection, media reported.
Residents in many other cities in Shizuoka Prefecture have also been ordered to evacuate.