Rescue workers are still desperately searching for dozens of people feared missing after a huge landslide ripped through a Japanese town, leaving at least three people dead.
Days of torrential downpours triggered a powerful mudslide in Atami, a seaside resort around 56 miles southwest of Tokyo in Shizuoka prefecture, on Saturday.
Footage posted on social media showed a deluge of black water crashing into the city, leaving homes submerged or completely destroyed.
Officials confirmed that three people had been found dead as of early Monday.
Recovery efforts were ramped up over the weekend, with coast guard ships and six military drones backing up the hundreds of troops, firefighters and other rescue workers toiling in the rain and fog in search of possible survivors.
More than 100 people were initially thought to be missing, but officials revised the number down to 80 after confirming some had been safely evacuated or were away when the disaster struck.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that Atami is a holiday destination, with many properties left empty for large parts of the year and their listed residents living elsewhere.
Officials have said they hope to get in touch with as many of the unaccounted for as possible on Monday and are preparing to release a list of names to help track them down.
The landslide occurred on Saturday after several days of heavy rains.
Witnesses described hearing a giant roar as a small stream turned into a torrent, carrying black mud, trees, rocks and debris from buildings.
Onlookers can be heard gasping in mobile phone footage of the disaster.
One man told NHK public television: ‘My mother is still missing. I never imagined something like this could happen here.’
Another 75-year-old evacuee said the house across the road from his was swept away and the couple living there unaccounted for, adding: ‘This is hell.’
Like many seaside and mountain towns in Japan, Atami is built on steep hillsides, its roads winding through areas of forest and heavy vegetation.
With other parts of Japan expecting heavy rains in what is known as Japan’s rainy season, authorities elsewhere are also surveying hillsides.
Naoto Date, an actor who happened to be visiting the Izusan area after a filming session, woke up to sirens in the area when he was in his house, which is next-door to his mother’s.
He said: ‘I grew up here and my classmates and friends live here. I’m so sad to see my neighbourhood where I used to play with my friends is now destroyed.’
Mr Date, who lives in Tokyo, said he was staying away from evacuation centres due to concern about the coronavirus.
Even though his house was located in a hazard area, he said he never imagined it would be hit by a disaster, adding: ‘I used to take it not so seriously and I regret that.’
He recorded rescuers wading knee-deep through mud while water gushed past them carrying the debris from homes which had been ripped apart.
Mr Date said: ‘Many people saw their homes and belongings and everything washed away. They won’t be able to return home, and it must require an unimaginable effort to recover.’
Shizuoka’s governor, Heita Kawakatsu told a news conference on Sunday that land development upstream may have been a factor in the mudslide.
Citing a preliminary examination by drone, Mr Kawakatsu said massive amounts of soil that had been heaped up in the construction area had all washed down.
Mr Kawakatsu said he will investigate the land development. Media reports suggested a planned housing development was abandoned after its operator ran into financial problems.
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