Two dead and 20 remain missing as rescuers search for survivors after a landslide hit the town of Atami.
Rescuers from a Japanese holiday town hit by a deadly landslide searched for survivors on Sunday, scaling cracked roofs and checking cars thrown at sunken buildings as rain poured down on the area.
Two people have been confirmed dead after the disaster at the Atami spa in central Japan, with 10 others rescued and around 20 still missing, a local government official said.
Torrents of mud swept over parts of the city on Saturday morning after days of heavy rains, sweeping through hillside homes and turning residential areas into a quagmire that stretched to the nearby coast.
“The number of damaged houses and buildings may rise to 130. I mourn the loss of life,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told ministers at an emergency meeting.
“This rainy season front is expected to continue to cause heavy rains in many regions. There is a fear that earthly disasters could occur even when the rain stops, ”he warned.
A thousand rescuers, including 140 soldiers, participated in the relief operations, an official from Shizuoka prefecture told AFP.
“We are doing our best to search for survivors as quickly as possible while carrying out the operation very carefully because it is still raining,” he added.
Public broadcaster NHK later reported that the rescue operations had been temporarily suspended due to bad weather.
“The big electricity pylons here were shaking all over the place, and hardly I wondered what was going on as the mudslides were already there and on the street below,” said Chieko Oki, who works on a shopping street in the area. city. .
“I was really scared,” the 71-year-old told AFP.
Another survivor told local media he heard a “horrible sound” and fled to higher ground as rescuers urged people to evacuate.
On Sunday, black water flowed past half-buried vehicles and buildings that had toppled from their foundations.
An air conditioning unit hung from a devastated house, now perched above a thick mud of mud and debris, as military personnel drove poles into the ground to search for bodies.
No more landslides to fear
Atami, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) southwest of Tokyo, recorded rainfall of 313 millimeters in just 48 hours until Saturday, more than the July average monthly total of 242.5 millimeters, according to the NHK public channel.
Much of Japan is currently in its annual rainy season, which lasts for several weeks and often causes flooding and landslides.
Scientists say climate change is intensifying the phenomenon because a warmer atmosphere holds more water, resulting in more intense precipitation.
More showers are expected in the coming days on the main island of Japan.
“Landslides can happen over and over again in the same place even if the rain stops. Residents and rescuers must stay alert, “Takeo Moriwaki, professor of geotechnical engineering at the Hiroshima Institute of Technology, told AFP.
NHK said on Sunday that at least seven other landslides had been reported across Japan.
The highest evacuation alert, which urges people “to ensure safety urgently”, was issued after the Atami disaster, which numbers 20,000 homes.
In city shelters, survivors wearing masks were keeping their distance from other families for fear of coronavirus infection, media reported.
Residents of many other towns in Shizuoka were also ordered to evacuate.