Two people are presumed dead and around 20 others are missing on Saturday in Atami, central Japan, after mudslides caused by heavy rainfall.
Torrents of mud roll down the streets of the small town of Atami in central Japan. This is what the images of the Japanese public television NHK show, Saturday, July 3, while the authorities announce a worrying toll: two dead and twenty missing.
“Under the action of torrential rains, the ground gave way and the flow left” from the top of a river in the coastal town of Atami, the governor of the department of Shizuoka, Heita Kawakatsu, told reporters.
“It swept away houses and residents in its path,” cutting a national road, he added.
As for the human toll, “two people are in a state of cardio-respiratory arrest,” he said, using the term used in the country before the confirmation of a death by a doctor, and about twenty others are still missing after the landslide which occurred at around 10:30 a.m. local (01:30 GMT).
“I heard a horrible noise and saw a mudslide rolling down the slope as rescuers asked residents to evacuate. So I ran” to a higher place, the channel told NHK public television the manager of a Buddhist temple.
“When I returned, the houses and cars that were in front of the temple were gone,” he said.
“Maximum alert level”
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that emergency services and the Japanese Self-Defense Force (the military’s official name) had launched rescue and evacuation operations, stressing that more torrential rains were expected .
“We must be at the maximum alert level,” he said at an emergency meeting.
Atami town received 313mm of rain on Friday and Saturday in 48 hours, according to NHK – while it averages around 240mm each year for the entire month of July.
This resort town, located about 90 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, is known for its thermal springs.
More than 2,800 homes in the region were without electricity, according to the electricity company Tepco.
The Shinkansen, the Japanese high-speed train, was temporarily suspended between Tokyo and Osaka (west) because of heavy rains and other trains were also stopped, according to the websites of the railway companies.
Much of Japan is currently in the midst of the rainy season, which often causes flooding and landslides, prompting local authorities to issue evacuation orders.
Scientists say the phenomenon is exacerbated by climate change as a warmer atmosphere holds more water, increasing the risk and intensity of extreme precipitation.
In 2018, flooding in western Japan killed more than 200 people.