Nineteen people are missing in the Shizuoka department (central Japan) after landslides caused by heavy rains washed away houses on Saturday, a department official told AFP.
Images broadcast by Japanese television showed torrents of mud destroying buildings in the coastal town of Atami, as residents sought shelter. “We have no information on the safety of 19 people,” said the departmental head of natural disasters.
Local authorities have requested the assistance of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to organize a rescue mission, he added.
An Atami official said a landslide had occurred at 10:30 am local time (01:30 GMT), adding that “several houses” had been “washed away” and that 200 homes in the area were without electricity.
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.
The town of Atami had suffered a rainfall of 313 mm in just 48 hours on Saturday shortly after midnight, according to the public broadcaster NHK – far more than the 242.5 mm average usually seen in July. The resort town of Atami, about 90 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, is known for its thermal springs.
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.