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Japan rescue work hindered by rain after heavy landslides, 20 people missing

Japanese rescuers struggled to find 20 missing people on Sunday after torrential rains triggered landslides in the city of Atami, killing two women, a local official said.  Approximately 130 buildings were affected by floods, landslides, cascading mud, and half-submerged houses on Saturday in Atami, a seaside town 90 km (60 miles) southwest of Tokyo, spokesman Yuta Hara told Reuters. ‘I just wanted to cry (when I saw what had happened),’ said Naoto Date, 55, an actor who landed in his hometown on Saturday morning (1800 GMT on Friday) to observe the damage.

Date described the area as being between mountains with a river flowing through it. Above that river is a steep slope, and the mudslide rushed down the slope and became a river. Because of the number of elderly people living there, he is saddened by the prospect that some may have died in the disaster. Tokyo, which is to host the Summer Olympics starting this month, has always been plagued by natural disasters, such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis.

Yoshihide Suga, the prime minister of Japan, urged people in the areas affected by the disaster to remain on alert and take precautions after he met with cabinet ministers on Sunday to discuss heavy rain in central and eastern Japan. Police, firefighters, and military members in Shizuoka prefecture continued searching and rescuing, but their efforts were interrupted twice due to ground loosening and warnings of secondary damages, said Atami’s Hara. Hara said that about 387 people had been evacuated from the affected area where intermittent rain continued as of 11:00 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Sunday.

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The landslide occurred around 10:30 a.m. (0130 GMT) on Saturday in Atami, a hot spring resort situated on a steep slope into a bay. The water, mud, and debris traveled 2 km (1.2 miles) up the river to the sea, local media reported. Television stations showed footage of partially submerged and collapsed houses. Images on social media show partially submerged cars and rescue workers wading through waist-high water with a small life raft.


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