Japan landslide 2021: what happened in Japanese city of Atami - as 23 rescued and 80 people still missing

23 people have been rescued, around 80 are still unaccounted for

The landslide has buried many homes, as 20 people are declared missing (Picture: Reuters)
The landslide has buried many homes, as 20 people are declared missing (Picture: Reuters)

Three people have died and 23 have been rescued following a landslide in the Japanese city of Atami.

Around 80 people are still unaccounted for, three days after the catastrophe, which hit at around 10.30 local time (01:30 GMT) on 3 July.

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It follows days of heavy rainfall in the region, according to national broadcaster NHK.

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Rescue mission

"We are trying our best to search for survivors as quickly as possible while carrying out the operation very carefully as it is still raining," a local official told AFP news agency.

In the hot spring resort, rainfall has been above the unusually high for July, bordering Kanagawa has also been hit by above average rainfall. Both areas are located in the region of Shizuoka.

In the 48 hours prior to Saturday, the city was hit with more than its monthly average rainfall for the month of July.

Japan is vulnerable to mudslides in July, tens of people were killed in 2020 and over 200 died due to mudslides in Western Japan in 2018.

Ordered to evacuate

Footage from Atami showed a flood of mud cascading down a hillside, submerging the houses below.

More than 2,800 homes in the region were without power, according to the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).

About 1,500 rescue workers are currently searching at wreckage, including police, firefighters and members of the military.

"We want to rescue as many victims ... buried in the rubble as soon as possible," Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

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Following the landslide on Saturday, PM Suga announced he has put together an emergency task force to respond to the disaster.

A witness told NHK: "I heard a horrible sound and saw a mudslide flowing downwards as rescue workers were urging people to evacuate. So I ran to higher ground."

Residents in parts of three prefectures - Shizuoka, Kanagawa and Chiba - have been ordered to evacuate following warnings of further flooding in low-lying areas.