The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

At least 36 dead, 7 missing in landslides in Hiroshima in western Japan

  • Print
Rescue workers search for survivors after a massive landslide swept through residential areas in Hiroshima, western Japan, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Rain-sodden slopes collapsed in torrents of mud, rock and debris early Wednesday in the outskirts of Hiroshima, killing at least 36 people, police said. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT

Enlarge Image

Rescue workers search for survivors after a massive landslide swept through residential areas in Hiroshima, western Japan, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Rain-sodden slopes collapsed in torrents of mud, rock and debris early Wednesday in the outskirts of Hiroshima, killing at least 36 people, police said. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT

TOKYO - Rain-sodden slopes collapsed in torrents of mud, rock and debris Wednesday on the outskirts of Hiroshima city, killing at least 36 people and leaving seven missing, Japanese police said.

Public broadcaster NHK showed rescue workers suspended by ropes from police helicopters pulling victims from the rubble. Others gingerly climbed into windows as they searched for survivors in crushed homes.

Hillsides were swept down into residential areas in at least five valleys in the suburbs of the western Japanese city after heavy rains left slopes unstable.

Hiroshima prefectural police said 36 people were confirmed dead and at least seven others were missing as of Wednesday night. The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said 15 people were injured, two seriously.

Local government official Nakatoshi Okamoto said a few people were washed away it was hard to know exactly how many were unaccounted for, because harsh conditions in the disaster area were hindering rescuers.

Authorities issued warnings that additional rain could trigger more landslides and flooding.

The land collapsed so quickly at multiple locations that evacuation advisories came an hour after the first mudslide, said Kenzo Kanayama, the city's disaster management chief. "We misjudged the situation. It was too late," he said.

"It's so regrettable," Kyodo News service quoted Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui as saying. "We'll find out what went wrong and take the necessary measures."

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was on vacation, had to cancel his plans to play golf outside Tokyo and rush back to his office to set up a taskforce.

Landslides are a constant risk in mountainous, crowded Japan, where many homes are built on or near steep slopes. Torrential rains early Wednesday apparently caused slopes to collapse in an area where many of the buildings were newly constructed.

Hiroshima's geology, consisting of highly water-retentive soil, makes the city particularly prone to such disasters, said Hiroshi Ikeya, a landslide expert at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.

The damage was extensive "because of intense rain, extremely fragile slopes and the disaster hitting in the dead of night," he said in an interview on NHK. Mudslides, floodwater, broken trees and debris flowed down the hill, smashing into houses, he said.

More than 30 people died in 1999 when Hiroshima was hit by hundreds of landslides.

Damage from land and mudslides has increased nationwide over the past few decades due to more frequent heavy rains, despite extensive work to stabilize 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 decade.

In October last year, multiple mudslides on Izu-Oshima, an island south of Tokyo, killed 35 people, four of whose bodies were never recovered. Those slides followed a typhoon that dumped a record 824 millimeters (more than 32 inches) of rain in a single day.

___

Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi contributed to this report.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Police speak out on Red River search

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A golfer looks for his ball in a water trap at John Blumberg Golf Course Friday afternoon as geese and goslings run for safety- See Joe Bryksa’s 30 day goose challenge- Day 24– June 15, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 100615 - Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 The Mane Attraction - Lions are back at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Xerxes a 3-year-old male African Lion rests in the shade of a tree in his new enclosure at the old Giant Panda building.  MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think volunteers dragging the Red River is a good idea?

View Results

Ads by Google