At least 19 people missing when mudslide hits houses west of Tokyo
TOKYO – A powerful mudslide with a flood of black water and debris fell into rows of houses in a city west of Tokyo after heavy rainfall on Saturday, leaving at least 19 people missing, officials said.
Dozens of houses may have been buried in Atami, a city known for hot springs, Shizuoka Prefecture spokesman Takamichi Sugiyama said.
Public broadcaster NHK put the number of missing people at 20, but Sugiyama said the prefecture confirmed at least 19, despite saying the number could rise.
Torrential rains have rocked parts of Japan since the beginning of this week. Experts said the dirt had been loosened, which increased the risk of landslides in a land full of valleys and mountains.
Sugiyama said it had rained heavily in the area all morning. Self-defense forces will assist firefighters and police in the rescue operation, he added. Evacuation warnings have been issued for a large area.
The landslides seemed to have slammed several times, about as fast as a car. The footage showed a mighty black mudslide sliding down a mountainside, tearing down and smashing houses, and sweeping away cars. Helpless neighbors watched in horror, some recording with their cell phones.
NHK TV recordings showed that part of a bridge had collapsed.
Atami is a picturesque seaside resort in Shizuoka Prefecture, about 100 kilometers southwest of Tokyo. The Izusan area hit by the mudslide includes hot springs, residential areas, shopping streets and a famous shrine.