TOKYO – A powerful landslide filled with black water and debris hit homes in a city west of Tokyo following heavy rains on Saturday, leaving at least 19 people missing, officials said.
Dozens of homes may have been buried in the town of Adami, which is known for its hot springs, Shizuoka state spokesman Takamichi Sukiyama said.
NHK, the public broadcaster, gave the number of missing persons at 20, but Sukiyama said it had confirmed at least 19, although that number could increase.
It has been raining heavily in some parts of Japan starting earlier this week. In a country full of valleys and mountains, landslide risks have increased and dirt has eased, experts said.
The Shizuoka government told Hita Kawakatsu reporters that the Coast Guard had found two people washed up in the sea by a landslide. Their hearts have stopped, but their deaths have not yet been officially announced, he said. Other details of their identity have not been released.
“I extend my deepest condolences to all those affected,” he said, adding that great efforts will be made to save lives.
Kawakatsu and Sukiyama both said it was raining heavily in the area in the morning. The defense forces will join firefighters and police in the rescue operation, and a minister from the national government has arrived.
Exhaust warnings were issued for a wide area, including the so-called “Level 5”, which is the highest alert.
The landslide seemed to hit several times as fast as a car. The footage showed a powerful, black mud slide sliding down a hillside, falling down and crushing houses and sweeping cars in its path. Helpless neighbors looked on in horror, some recording on their phones.
NHK television footage showed part of a bridge collapsing.
Adami is a beautiful seaside resort area in the province of Shizuoka, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Tokyo. The landslide-affected area includes Isuzu, hot springs, residential areas, shopping streets and a popular sanctuary.