Sunday, July 25, 2021

international

Rescuers seek 80 missing people after deadly landslide in Japanese seaside town


TOKYO - Rescuers used heavy machinery, shovels and dogs on Monday as they searched desperately for survivors from a landslide in the seaside city of Atami that has left at least four people dead and 80 missing.

Two people were found alive and unharmed on Monday, public broadcaster NHK reported, two days after a "tsunami" of mud swept away scores of buildings in the city, following torrential downpours.

Atami, a city of 36,000 people, lies 60 miles southwest of Tokyo. It is set on a steep slope leading down to a bay and is famous for a hot springs resort.

Mayor Sakae Saito said the city has yet to confirm the location of 80 people, with officials checking residence records and visiting evacuation shelters, according to Japanese media.

"It was a matter of a few minutes," the woman who posted a video of the mudslide told the Mainichi newspaper, explaining that the entire family had escaped out of a window. "My only thought at seeing the mudslide was fear and I felt like I was just going to die."

Eiji Suzuki said he had rushed out of his house on hearing a sudden noise, only to see the mudslide approaching. He tried to go back home to help his 82-year-old mother but police told him to evacuate the area and they would rescue her.

They did, but she died later in hospital.

"The police urged me to evacuate but now I regret leaving my mother behind," he told Mainichi. "She was a truly kind person. Thinking of all of our memories together I am devastated. "

Some areas had received more rain in 24 hours than they normally receive in the whole of July, but nature may not have been entirely to blame.

Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu said the prefecture was looking into whether local development projects had also played a role, by leaving a large mound of dirt that appears to have collapsed into the river, while also deforesting the area and reducing the capacity of mountain soils to retain water, according to Japanese media reports.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato called for vigilance, with the ground so saturated and weakened that even light rain could prove dangerous, but Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga vowed an all-out effort to rescue any survivors.

"Police, Self-Defense Forces, firefighters, the Japan Coast Guard and others are dedicating all their strength to rescue every person who has been left in the debris who needs help as soon as possible," he told reporters.

A 75-year-old man had a lucky escape when the house across from his was swept away. The couple living there are missing.

"This is hell," the man told the Reuters news agency from an emergency shelter.

Published : July 05, 2021

By : The Washington Post · Simon Denyer