Fri, Jul 24, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Japanese rescuers battle clock in hunt for mudslide victims


Rescue workers recovered a woman’s body yesterday from mud and rubble that filled a nursing home after a landslide, raising to 11 the death toll after heavy rains hit western Japan, police said.

Soldiers, police and emergency services staff continued their search for seven people still missing in the aftermath of floods and landslides triggered two days ago by rainy-season torrential downpours in the region.

“Search operations are getting more and more difficult, but we are working on the assumption that there are survivors,” said a police spokesman by telephone from hard-hit Yamaguchi Prefecture on Honshu island.

One person was still missing on the mud-filled ground floor of the two-story nursing home where at least six people died when a large landslide hit the building in Hofu City on Tuesday.

“We found the body of a woman inside the bathing facility on the ground floor in the afternoon. We have yet to identify her,” another police officer said. “We are not certain if she was bathing at the time of the landslide.”

Most of about 100 residents of the home were brought to the roof and lifted out by helicopter on Tuesday.

Rescue workers also recovered a man’s remains from a field near a country highway yesterday afternoon, where flows of mud and rocks hit a dozen cars and damaged some houses, police said.

It was the second body found there, and two others were still missing in the highway area, some 5km from the nursing home.

In nearby Shimonoseki City, a rescue team on Wednesday found the body of a 74-year-old farmer who had fallen into a reservoir.

Of the 11 dead, 10 were killed in Yamaguchi and one, a man, drowned in a flooded river in the neighboring prefecture of Tottori.

Some 700 workers from the police, fire brigades and the Ground Self-Defence Force were operating in Hofu yesterday, a city official said.

The heavy rains also flooded a water purifying station, cutting off fresh water to nearly 30,000 homes. Soldiers and local officials are to tour affected areas with water trucks and setup makeshift bathrooms and showers.

A seasonal rain front has brought torrential downpours in southwestern Japan since the weekend. Yamaguchi has seen record rainfall this month.

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