At least 20 missing after Japan landslide

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Twenty people are missing in central Japan after a huge landslide hit Atami city following heavy rainfall.

Video on social media showed a torrent of black mud plummeting down from a mountain top and on through the city towards the sea. Several houses were destroyed or buried. Two bodies have been found by the coast guard, the local governor said. A resident said he heard a “horrible sound” and fled as the landslide engulfed everything in its path.

Atami, a popular hot-spring resort in the prefecture of Shizuoka, has had more rainfall in the first three days of July than it usually sees in the whole month. The weather has been similar in neighbouring Kanagawa prefecture. Japan is a very mountainous and densely populated country and landslides are not unusual, says the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Tokyo.

At least 20 missing as mudslide west of Tokyo hits houses

But there is growing evidence that climate change is making these sorts of extreme weather events more frequent and more destructive, our correspondent adds. The mudslide struck at 10:30 local time on Saturday (01:30 GMT), according to a local resident.

One witness told national broadcaster NHK: “I heard a horrible sound and saw a mudslide flowing downwards as rescue workers were urging people to evacuate. So I ran to higher ground.” Another resident, Chieko Oki, told AFP news agency: “The big electricity pylons here were shaking all over the place and no sooner had I wondered what was going on than the mudslides were already there.”

2 bodies found, 20 missing in massive mudslide in central Japan - CGTN

One man could only escape by climbing a ladder. “The mudslide came really close, right in front of my house. I could hear it coming before I saw it. I couldn’t get away, so I climbed up a ladder,” he told NHK. Another man described hearing an “unimaginable sound”. “I knew it was a landslide. It’s been raining constantly for three days, it’s been steady rather than a sudden downpour,” he said.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has put together a taskforce to respond to the disaster and the wider emergency caused by heavy rainfall on the Pacific coastline. Police, firefighters and members of Japan’s military are involved in a search operation. Atami’s Mayor Sakae Saito told local media that up to 300 homes had been affected by the landslide.

Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of residents in three prefectures – Shizuoka, Kanagawa and Chiba – have been ordered to evacuate following warnings of further flooding in low-lying areas. Last July dozens were killed in flooding. More than 200 died in 2018 when parts of western Japan were inundated.

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