Rescuers continued their search for survivors on Monday, two days after a major mudslide at a spa resort southwest of Tokyo killed at least four people and destroyed as many as 130 homes.
Firefighters, police and Self-Defense Force personnel continued to clear debris and search mud-flooded houses in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, while the first 72 hours after the incident, considered a crucial period to find survivors, were approaching.
On Monday, the rescue team found three missing people, one of whom was confirmed dead, the city government said. The other two were apparently not in danger of death.
The municipality continues its efforts to locate 64 people whose fate is still unknown on the basis of the basic register of residents. The figure may include those who had already left the city before the disaster but are on the list of residents.
The city government has identified one of the four dead as Chiyose Suzuki, 82, but the other three victims, including two women, have not yet been identified.
Suzuki’s eldest son Hitoshi, 56, told Kyodo News he regretted not bringing his mother, who couldn’t walk well, with him when police urged them to evacuate.
“I should have come back and took her there myself” instead of leaving her behind before rescuers arrived for help, he said.
His mother died shortly after he joined her in the hospital.
In Tokyo, the Imperial Household Agency said Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako were deeply moved by the dead and missing in the mudslide affected area.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters in the capital that rescuers will continue to search for those buried in the mud.
Suga called on members of his cabinet to “save as many lives as possible and do everything possible to rapidly deploy relief efforts and victim support” during a meeting of the Disaster Management Working Group in the morning.
Government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said the state will partner with experts and the Shizuoka Prefecture government to determine whether the massive mudslide was exacerbated by around 54,000 cubic meters of accumulated soil. in the mountain.
The city government said the former landowner, a Kanagawa-based real estate company, left the ground there in 2007. Local authorities suspect that some 100,000 cubic meters of soil, including accumulated soil, have collected. collapsed in a nearby river around 10:30 a.m. am Saturday, and traveled a distance of about 2 kilometers.
Search and rescue continues for those unaccounted for in the spa town of Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, on July 5, 2021, two days after torrential rains triggered a great mudslide. (Kyodo) == Kyodo
Shizuoka Governor Heita Kawakatsu inspected the disaster-affected area and told reporters, “Due to the prolonged rain accumulation, soil (left by the company) and sediment was washed away and washed away. aggravated the damage.
While the accumulated soil is generally looser than naturally formed mounds, Michiya Irasawa, professor of erosion control at Iwate University, said such soil would generally stay in place if compacted with it. heavy machinery.
“I suspect that a large volume of water has flowed inside the mound and weakened its grip,” he said.
Norifumi Hotta, associate professor of erosion control engineering at the University of Tokyo, said the accumulated soil collapse may have triggered the mudslide.
With the site originally under threat, he called for an investigation into whether it was appropriate to leave such a large amount of soil there.
The local government closed 11 primary and secondary schools and four kindergartens on Monday as warnings against heavy rains and mudslides remained in place.
On the social media platform Twitter, people posted the names, ages, descriptions and photos of missing loved ones.
Among those looking for their loved ones is Koichi Tanaka, 71, whose wife Michiko, 70, disappeared after Tanaka left his wife at home to watch her friend.
“I can’t believe the face of the city has drastically changed in an hour,” Tanaka said.
A local branch of the Japanese National Council of Welfare began recruiting volunteers on Monday, but only hiring prefecture workers as a measure against the coronavirus.
The start of volunteering is expected to be delayed for the time being due to fears of a secondary disaster.
Rain and risk of new disaster hamper search for mudslide victims in Japan
2 dead, around 20 missing in a large mudslide southwest of Tokyo