2 bodies found, 20 missing in massive mudslide in central Japan
Two people were feared dead and about 20 others remained missing Saturday following a massive mudslide triggered by torrential rain in central Japan, local authorities said.
The disaster occurred at about 10:30 am local time in Atami city in Shizuoka prefecture southwest of Tokyo, as heavy rainfall swept areas along the Pacific coast in central and eastern Japan.
Around 21,000 households in Atami, a spot for hot spa resorts, were ordered to ensure their safety immediately as the local government issued the highest level of evacuation alert.
Firefighters are conducting a search and rescue operation in the slide-stricken area for the victims. They have received about 10 calls from people who are trapped in their houses.
The Shizuoka prefectural government has called for help from the Self-Defense Forces in disaster relief.
The Ground Self-Defense Force dispatched around 30 personnel to the area in response to the request.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has held talks with disaster minister Yasufumi Tanahashi over the mudslide and other calamities associated with the rain.
The government has set up a task force at the prime minister's office to collect information.
The Japan Meteorological Agency urged maximum alert and called on people to be vigilant over mudslides, flooding and swollen rivers.
In the 72-hour period through 11:00 am Saturday local time, 790 millimeters of rainfall were logged in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, and over 550 millimeters were recorded in Gotemba, Shizuoka Prefecture, the agency said.
Due to rising rivers in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, the local government ordered residents to ensure their safety immediately, issuing the highest level of evacuation alert under the revised basic counter disaster law for the first time in the country.
Torrential rain also disrupted the public transport system. Shinkansen bullet trains were temporarily halted in sections between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, according to operator Central Japan Railway Co.
The seasonal rain front is expected to move toward the Sea of Japan coast over the weekend.