Witnesses described watching whole houses be swept away by the fast-moving river of debris, and video posted to social media showed a driver barely managing to get out of the way as dark mud cascaded down one of the city's steep hills. One 84-year-old man told Kyodo News that he had noticed a rotting smell, then looked up to see a torrent of mud and sand headed his way.
While mudslides are not uncommon during Japan's rainy season, extreme weather appears to have played a role in the disaster. Atami has received more rain in the first three days of July than it usually does in an entire month, the BBC reported. Experts believe that climate change may be responsible for more intense rains, because the warmer atmosphere stores more moisture.
A coastal resort known for its hot springs, Atami is located roughly 60 miles southwest of Tokyo. As search-and-rescue efforts got underway, residents of several surrounding prefectures were urged to evacuate due to the high risk of additional landslides and flooding.
"Please continue to pay attention to evacuation information from the local government and take actions to protect your own life as soon as possible," Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in a statement.
By Saturday evening, authorities were estimating that as many as 80 homes in Atami had been crushed, buried or washed away by the landslide. The two people who died had been swept into the sea, where their bodies were found by coast guard, Heita Kawakatsu, the governor of Shizuoka prefecture, told reporters.
Published : July 04, 2021
By : The Washington Post · Antonia Noori Farzan