Japan landslide buries homes as people slept

Landslides are not uncommon in Japan during the country’s rainy season, when heavy rain can dislodge earth

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 April, 2018, 9:14am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 April, 2018, 9:07pm

A man has been found dead and several people are missing after a landslide engulfed houses in southern Japan.

Local officials said the body had not yet been identified, but Japan’s NHK television said the man was among six people who had been reported missing by a local resident.

The landslide hit in the early hours of Wednesday, and rescuers were searching for five women and one man reported missing after dirt engulfed three local homes.

Local television footage showing rescuers and a digger clearing rocks and mud more than 10 hours after the disaster.

Landslides are not uncommon in Japan during the country’s rainy season, when heavy rain can dislodge earth.

But there was no indication that bad weather had preceded the landslide on Wednesday.

“Although it is rare, a landslide could occur even without rainfall immediately before,” said Hiroyuki Ono of the Sabo & Landslide Technical Centre.

Ono suspected there may have been several small landslides rather than one large one and said a thorough survey was needed to reveal the cause.

Yasuhiro Mitani, a professor of geotechnics at Kyushu University, said the slope may have been eroded by rain and “a crack on the mountain surface may have collapsed with the passage of time”.

The area has been designated by the prefectural government as a special area in which potential landslides could damage buildings and threaten the lives of residents.

While the prefectural government built fences to prevent rocks from falling down the mountain after wind struck down trees there in 1991, the fences do not prevent landslides.

Large rocks crushed the fences and rolled down in the latest landslide.

The town is part of the Yabahitahikosan quasi-national park and is in the scenic Yabakei valley, which draws 800,000 tourists every year, according to the municipal government.

Agence France-Presse, Kyodo