ATAMI, Japan—More than 1,000 soldiers, firefighters, and police on Sunday waded through a giant mudslide that ripped through a resort town southwest of Tokyo, killing at least two people and leaving about 20 missing as it swept away houses and cars.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters 19 people had been rescued, and 130 homes and other buildings were damaged in Atami.
Two people were dead, but more were feared missing, he said speaking after an emergency Cabinet meeting. Earlier, disaster officials said 20 were unaccounted for, but warned the number may rise. Shizuoka prefecture officials said three people had been injured.
“The area is still having heavy rainfall, but arduous rescue efforts will continue,” Suga said, warning residents to watch out for more landslides. “Please act as quickly as you can to stay safe.”
Troops, firefighters, and other rescue workers, backed by three coast guard ships, were working to clear the mud from the streets of Atami and reach those believed to be trapped or carried away. They were barely visible in the rainfall and thick fog except for the their hard hats. Six military drones were being flown to help in the search.
The mudslide early Saturday crashed down a mountainside into rows of houses following heavy rains that began several days ago. Bystanders, their gasps of horror audible, caught the scene on cellphone video.
Witnesses said they heard a giant roar and then watched helplessly as homes got gobbled up by the muddy waves.
Like many others, Mariko Hattori, an interpreter who lives a short walk away from where the tsunami-like torrent of mud struck, at first didn’t know what happened.
“The first things I noticed were lots of emergency vehicles. I didn’t know what happened at first,” she said. “Then I was frightened when I saw the footage.”
The area of Atami where the mudslide struck, Izusan, is a seaside resort about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Tokyo. It’s known for hot springs, a shrine, and shopping streets.
By Kantaro Komiya