Landslides kill 36 after torrential rains in Hiroshima
Rain-sodden slopes collapsed in torrents of mud, rock and debris on the outskirts of Hiroshima city yesterday, killing at least 36 people and leaving seven missing, Japanese police said.
Rescue workers suspended by ropes from police helicopters were pulling victims from the rubble. Others 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.
Police said 36 people were confirmed dead and at least seven others were missing.
Local government official Nakatoshi Okamoto said it was hard to know exactly how many were unaccounted for, because harsh conditions in the disaster area were hindering rescuers. 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," Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui said. "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 yesterday apparently caused slopes to collapse in an area where many of the buildings were newly constructed.