Around 700 police and Self-Defense Forces personnel as well as firefighters are involved in the search in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, while work to clear away mud and debris using heavy machinery began early in the morning amid intermittent rain and the risk of a secondary disaster.
The coast guard also continued looking for missing persons at a nearby port, where two women showing no signs of life were discovered and later confirmed dead Saturday.
Mayor Sakae Saito instructed members of a local task force meeting on Sunday to do their best in the search and rescue efforts, saying the “next 72 hours are crucial.”
The Japan Meteorological Agency said heavy rain is expected to continue mostly in areas on the Sea of Japan side of the country and warned the public to be vigilant against further mudslides, flooding and swollen rivers.
According to the Shizuoka Local Meteorological Office, some areas will experience heavy rain with thunder into Monday afternoon. It also forecast cumulative rainfall of 500 millimeters and said there was a risk of mudslides even in areas experiencing lower levels of rainfall.
The disaster completely destroyed some homes after mud cascaded from a mountain top at around 10:30 a.m. Saturday, traveling a distance of about 2 kilometers.
The prefectural government said the mudslide is likely to have occurred after a sizeable amount of soil loosened, but it remains unclear whether the soil was there naturally or as a result of earthworks.
In Tokyo, the central government, which set up a task force at the prime minister’s office Saturday, continues to monitor the situation.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga ordered relevant Cabinet ministers to work closely with the local government to protect the people while taking extra care over another disaster.
As of Sunday morning, nearly 390 people were ordered to evacuate. The city government issued the highest level of alert due to the high risk of sediment-related disasters.
Services on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line fully resumed from the first train early Sunday, its operator Central Japan Railway Co. said.
Source: Kyodo News