Mudslides damaged buses and homes in Atami, central Japan, Saturday, July 3, 2021.

Two people are presumed dead, “In a state of cardio-respiratory arrest”, and about 20 others are missing after a mudslide caused by torrential rains on Saturday, July 3, in Shizuoka prefecture, in 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 city of Atami. Nearly 80 people were evacuated from the city, according to the public broadcaster NHK.

“There may still be heavy rainfall and we must be extremely vigilant”, the latter said on television.

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, Saturday July 3, 2021.

A phenomenon accentuated by climate change

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

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