Floods, Mudslides Kill At Least 24 in Southwestern Japan
TOKYO (AP) _ At least 27 people were dead and 74 missing today after torrential rains caused flooding and sudden mudslides in southern Japan.
The avalanches of mud, in Kagoshima prefecture (state), threw cars and trucks from coastal roads into Kagoshima Bay and crushed or inundated buildings, said Yoshito Nagase, a prefectural police spokesman.
Rescuers, including troops from Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force, were still searching for survivors and bodies by midday.
Nagase said roads, railways and phone lines had been devastated in the prefectural capital, Kagoshima city, hampering rescue efforts and making the eventual death toll uncertain.
″There are a lot of areas you can only get to by helicopter right now,″ he said.
Nagase said about a dozen people were trapped alive when mud and rocks encased the bottom floors of a hospital in Kagoshima, a city of 1.75 million people 720 miles southwest of Tokyo.
Up to eight inches of rain had fallen in Kagoshima city during four hours through 8 p.m. Friday, triggering landslides at various places and flooding rivers in the city, officials said.
Thursday night an avalanche of rocks and earth was reported to have swept more than 10 people into the sea, police said.
The rain had stopped by midday today, but the National Weather Agency predicted more torrential rains in coming days.
The mud flows cut wide swaths through tree-covered mountains above a coastal road. Television reports today on Japan’s quasi-national Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) showed several cars and a large truck tossed into the bay.
A passenger bus beneath the hospital balanced precariously on a seawall. Victims who had taken refuge in a local sports center described walls of mud slamming down on their homes.
Kagoshima is in Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands.