The number of people killed in a massive landslide that devastated the coastal city of Atami in central Japan on Saturday has risen to nine, authorities said Thursday, as hundreds of rescuers continued the search.
“Two more people have been confirmed dead today, and the death toll is now nine,” Atami Disaster Management spokesman Yuta Hara told AFP.
22 people are still missing, a spokesman for the city’s Shizuoka department said.
The landslide happened on Saturday after days of heavy rains in Atami, a city built on a mountain about 100 kilometers southwest of Tokyo and the surrounding area.
The landslide, which passed in several devastating waves, swept away electricity poles, buried vehicles and ripped homes off their foundations, destroying or damaging a total of 130 buildings.
Much of Japan is currently in the middle of the rainy season, which often causes floods and landslides.
Scientists say the phenomenon is exacerbated by climate change because a warmer atmosphere retains more water, increasing the risk and intensity of extreme rainfall.
The number of people potentially living in the devastated area and whose authorities were initially without news climbed to more than a hundred on Monday. But many of these people have since been located and declared safe and healthy.
The municipality of Atami has struggled to establish a reliable list of potential victims of the disaster, as many homes in this coastal resort are used as second homes, and elderly residents sometimes live elsewhere, especially in specialized facilities.
About 1,700 police, firefighters, soldiers and the Coast Guard are still involved in the search, despite persistent rain in the area that has increased fears of new landslides and repeatedly forced rescue teams to stop their efforts.