Two women were killed and another 20 people have gone missing after a giant mudslide powered by torrential rains roared down a hillside in a seaside city 60 miles from Tokyo Saturday, crushing homes like matchsticks.
Local and federal rescue workers planned to resume searching for the missing people Sunday after calling a halt to the search Saturday night, CNN reported.
Harrowinga footage on social media showed the mudslide taking out homes and infrastructure as it rolled down a mountainside like a black tsunami. The mudslide happened in Atami, a popular destination for tourists.
Atami city officials told CNN that two women had died in the mudslide which affected between 100 and 300 households when it started around 10:30 a.m.
As of 2 p.m. local time, about 2,830 households in the city were out of power, the Tokyo Electric Power Company said.
The mudslide was caused by a heavy rainfall sweeping areas along the Pacific coast in central and eastern Japan. The government has set up a task force to deal with the disaster and collect information about it.
The Japan Coast Guard and federal Self-Defense Forces have joined local police and firefighters in the search and rescue efforts.
Heita Kawakatsu, the governor of Shizuoka prefecture, told reporters Saturday that more rain is expected and warned residents to be mindful of more landslides.
“There are many places where the ground is loose, so please evacuate from dangerous places, listen to information from the city and town, and make sure you and your family are safe,” he said.
Evacuation orders have been issued for people in areas surrounding Tokyo, as well as in Shizuoka, and Aichi prefectures, CNN reported.
Japan is prone to landslides but the number of landslides has doubled in the last 10 years, according to a 2020 Japanese government report.
Seismologist Robert Geller, professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo, told CNN that climate change is behind the rise in Japanese landslides.
“Global warming is making everything worse and is increasing the frequency of rainfall that can cause damaging landslides,” Geller said “The rainy season is going to last for another week or 10 days. Because of global warming, we’re probably getting more rainfall now than we normally do.”