Rescuers race to find survivors of deadly landslide that killed at least 43 in Japan

The death toll is expected to rise as the operation continues in Hiroshima

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Rescuers in Japan are racing to find survivors of a deadly landslide that killed at least 42 people on Wednesday.

Around 3,000 workers are trying to reach more than 40 missing people who were trapped when hillsides collapsed after a month's rain fell in 24 hours in Hiroshima, burying homes and washing streets away.

Police say more people could be unaccounted for, buried by mudslides and not yet reported missing.

The likelihood of finding survivors was expected to decrease significantly after 72 hours, which passed early on Saturday.

Police officers, firefighters, volunteers and Japan’s Self-Defence Forces have all joined the rescue effort, Kyodo news agency reported, and were trying to remove the mud and debris hampering the operation.

It had to be stopped on Friday when nearby hills appeared to shift, signalling the possibility of more landslips.

One of the youngest victims was a two-year-old boy, Kyodo news agency reported, and among the dead was a 53-year-old rescue worker who died when a second landslide struck as he tried to pull a child to safety.

Japan landslides.jpg
An aerial view of the damage caused by a landslide after heavy rains hit the city of Hiroshima on 20 August

“I woke up in the middle of the night and the corridor to the living room of my house was already flooded,” a survivor said.

“I heard the sound of water coming in, and then the water from the river rushed into my house, so I just took the car and rushed out.”

Landslides are a constant risk in mountainous Japan where many homes in densely populated areas are built on or near steep slopes.

Torrential rains in the early morning apparently caused slopes to collapse in an area where many of the buildings were newly constructed.

Damage from land and mudslides has increased in recent years due to more frequent heavy rains, despite extensive work to stabilise slopes.

In the past decade there have been nearly 1,200 landslides a year, according to the land ministry, up from an average of about 770 a year in the previous 10 years.

In October last year, multiple mudslides following a typhoon in Izu-Oshima, an island south of Tokyo, killed 35 people, four of whose bodies were never recovered.

Additional reporting by AP