July 25, 2021

In central Japan, two dead and twenty missing after mudslides

Two people died and around 20 others are missing after a mudslide caused by torrential rains on Saturday, July 3, in Shizuoka prefecture, central Japan. The landslide occurred around 10:30 a.m. local time (3:30 a.m. in Paris).

“Under the action of torrential rains, the land gave way and the flow left” from the top of a river in the coastal town of Atami, 90 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, Shizuoka County Governor Heita Kawakatsu told reporters. “She swept away houses and inhabitants in her path”, cutting a national road.

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The Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, announced that the emergency services and the Japanese self-defense forces (the official name of the army) had launched rescue and evacuation operations in the town of Atami. He asked them to ” do the best “ and estimated that some 130 houses and buildings may have been damaged in Atami.

Some 1,000 rescuers, including 140 soldiers, are launched in the search for survivors, climbing on cracked roofs and searching cars projected on buildings, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) a departmental official, adding that ten people were rescued.

A few hours later, NHK announced that the search had been temporarily suspended due to heavy rainfall. These are expected to continue for several days over part of Japan, the weather agency said on Sunday, warning of the risks of flooding and landslides.

More than 2,800 households in the region without electricity

Images broadcast by Japanese television showed torrents of mud destroying buildings in Atami, while residents tried to take shelter.

The landslide damaged the city of Atami, Japan, Saturday, July 3, 2021.

“I heard a horrible noise and saw a mudslide rolling down the slope as rescuers asked residents to evacuate. So I ran ” to gain a higher place, the head of a Buddhist temple told NHK. “When I returned, the houses and cars that were in front of the temple were gone. “

The town of Atami, known for its thermal springs, received 313mm of rain in 48 hours on Friday and Saturday, according to NHK while it averages around 240mm annually for the entire region. month of July. More than 2,800 homes in the region were without electricity, according to the electricity company Tepco.

The Shinkansen, the Japanese high-speed train, was temporarily suspended between Tokyo and Osaka (west) because of heavy rains, and other trains were also stopped, according to the websites of the railway companies.

Rescuers intervene in Zushi, in Kanagawa prefecture, on Saturday July 3, 2021.

A phenomenon accentuated by climate change

Much of Japan is currently in the middle of the rainy season, which often causes flooding and landslides, prompting local authorities to issue evacuation orders.

On Sunday, the Japanese Prime Minister once again spoke of the dangers of continuing heavy rains. “I would like our population to move away from dangerous areas”Mr. Suga said, asking for special attention to the evacuation orders.

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Scientists say the phenomenon is exacerbated by climate change as a warmer atmosphere holds more water, increasing the risk and intensity of extreme precipitation.

In 2018, flooding in western Japan killed more than 200 people.

Le Monde with AFP and Reuters