19 missing in Japan landslide after heavy rain: official

By: AFP      Published: 04:54 PM, 3 Jul, 2021
19 missing in Japan landslide after heavy rain: official

Two bodies found after Japan landslide sweeps away homes

Two bodies were found after a huge landslide at a resort town in central Japan swept away homes on Saturday following days of heavy rain, with around 20 people still missing, officials said.

Television footage showed a torrent of mud obliterating buildings as it crashed down a hillside in Atami, southwest of Tokyo, sending people fleeing as it buried part of a road.

"I heard a horrible sound and saw a mudslide flowing downwards as rescue workers were urging people to evacuate. So I ran to higher ground," the head of a temple near the disaster told public broadcaster NHK.

"When I returned, houses and cars that were in front of the temple were gone."

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said emergency services and the military had launched rescue and evacuation missions, warning that more downpours were forecast.

"There is a possibility of heavy rain due to the rain front, so we still need to be alert at the maximum level," he said at an emergency disaster meeting.

Atami saw rainfall of 313 millimetres in just 48 hours to Saturday -- higher than the average monthly total for July of 242.5 millimetres, according to NHK.

Two people were "found in a state of cardio and respiratory arrest", the regional governor said, an expression often used in Japan before confirming death.

"Because of the heavy rain, the ground loosened and the mudslide occurred... it picked up speed and swept away houses together with people," Shizuoka Governor Heita Kawakatsu told reporters.

He said "around 20" people were still missing after being swept away by the landslide.

A landslide engulfed houses and left 19 people missing in Japan's central Shizuoka region on Saturday, local officials said, following days of heavy rain. Television footage showed a torrent of mud obliterating some buildings and burying others in Atami city, with people running away as it crashed over a hillside road.

"The safety of 19 people is unknown" after the landslide, a Shizuoka prefecture official in charge of disaster management told AFP.

The local government has requested military assistance for a rescue mission, he added.

The landslide occurred at around 10:30am, an Atami city official said, adding that "several houses were swept away" and 200 homes in the area had been left without power.

Most of Japan is currently in its rainy season, which often causes floods and landslides and prompts local authorities to issue evacuation orders.

Atami saw rainfall of 313 millimetres in just 48 hours up to midnight on Saturday -- above the monthly average of 242.5 millimetres in July, according to public broadcaster NHK.

Atami, in the largely rural Shizuoka region, is around 90 kilometres (55 miles) from Tokyo and is famous as a hot spring resort.

Shinkansen bullet trains between Tokyo and Osaka were temporarily stopped due to the heavy rain, while other local trains in affected areas were also halted, according to rail company websites.