Dozens killed as Japan landslides bury homes
HUGE landslides in western Japan killed at least 36 people after a wall of mud smashed into their homes, and left rescuers scrambling to find others still missing, the authorities said yesterday.
Dozens of houses were buried when hillsides collapsed after torrential rain in Hiroshima, leaving rescuers to pick through the devastation for signs of life.
A spokesman for the Hiroshima Police told AFP that the death toll was still climbing. "The figures may change as the rescue efforts continue," he warned.
Among the dead was a two-year-old boy and a 53-year-old rescuer, who was killed by a secondary landslide after he had pulled five people to safety.
Aerial footage showed houses buried in thick slurry, their wooden frames splintered by the weight of the mud.
Torrents of water raced off the mountains behind the homes and through the wrecked buildings, hampering rescuers' efforts as they searched for survivors.
Pictures showed there had been at least five different landslides. Some uprooted trees and carried rocks down the hillside into the tightly packed houses that sit on the edge of a commuter belt, in an area where town gives way to farmland.
One man, gesturing to the mud-covered remains of a house, told NHK: "My house is over there, flattened."
Pointing elsewhere, he added: "A leg was seen (sticking out of the mud) and they are trying to confirm if the person is alive. The first thing we have to do is to help that person."
Another man told reporters he had seen everything he owned swept away.
"We could hear the earth rumbling, and, all of a sudden, things roared past us," he said.
Troops were deployed to help in the rescue after a request from the local government.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who abandoned a golfing holiday to deal with the disaster, said considerable resources were being pressed into action.
Hiroshima is no stranger to tragedy like this one. In 1999, more than 320 landslides hit the city, including the area affected yesterday, killing more than 30 people.
Japan's weather agency warned that more heavy rain was on the way to the area, raising the risk of further landslides.
The archipelago has been battered in recent weeks by unusually heavy rain, which has sparked a number of smaller landslides and several floods.