Images broadcast by Japanese television showed torrents of mud destroying buildings in the coastal town of Atami, as residents sought shelter.
20 people are now missing in central Japan’s Shizuoka department after landslides caused by heavy rains washed away homes on Saturday. A first assessment had mentioned the disappearance of 19 people and it is still likely to evolve. Images broadcast by Japanese television showed torrents of mud destroying buildings in the coastal town of Atami, as residents sought shelter.
“We have no information on the safety of 19 people,” said the departmental head of natural disasters when commenting on the initial assessment. Local authorities have requested the assistance of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to organize a rescue mission, he added.
200 homes without electricity
An Atami official said a landslide occurred at 10:30 am local time, adding that “several houses” were “washed away” and 200 homes in the area were without power.
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.
The town of Atami had suffered a rainfall of 313 mm in just 48 hours on Saturday shortly after midnight, according to the public broadcaster NHK – far more than the 242.5 mm average usually seen in July. For its part, Météo France estimates that 109 mm of rain had fallen by midday in the province of Shizuka.
The resort town of Atami, about 90 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, is known for its thermal springs.
The Shinkansen, the Japanese high-speed train, was temporarily suspended between Tokyo and Osaka due to heavy rains, and other trains were also stopped, according to the websites of the railway companies.