Landslide warnings as Japan digs through rain devastation

By AFP July 09,2018

In Kumano, Japan, the nose of a white car was just visible underneath the top floor of a home that had been torn from the rest of the building and swept down a hillside by floods. /AFP

Desperate relatives braced for bad news Monday as rescuers dug through landslides in the wake of severe floods that have killed 100 people and left swathes of central and western Japan under water.

With the toll mounting, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cancelled a four-country foreign trip, local media said, and he was expected to visit affected areas later this week.

As the floods receded, emergency workers reached previously cut-off places where authorities fear they could find more bodies in the wreckage of homes devastated by rivers of mud and debris.

“I have asked my family to prepare for the worst,” said Kosuke Kiyohara, 38, as he waited for word of his sister and her two young sons.

“I can’t reach her phone,” he told AFP, sitting across from a house that had been ripped apart and tossed on its side by a huge landslide.

Rescue workers said it was still possible that survivors could be found, but acknowledged the odds were getting longer.

“It has been three days… It’s possible that survivors will be found, but as the days pass the likelihood becomes slimmer,” a soldier at the scene told AFP.

The government said at least 100 people had been killed, and with many people still missing, the tally was expected to rise further.

Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said 73,000 police, firemen and troops were taking part in the rescue effort, with 700 helicopters deployed to help.

In Kumano, soldiers and other emergency workers were using diggers to clear crushed cars and mangled homes and chainsaws to cut up tree trunks.

But they were moving carefully, looking as they went for survivors, or the remains of those killed in the disaster.

In one part of Kumano, the nose of a white car was just visible underneath the top floor of a home that had been torn from the rest of the building and swept down a hillside.

Water was still flowing from the surrounding hillsides around the feet of shellshocked residents, some of whom wept as they saw their damaged district.

In neighboring Okayama prefecture, rescue workers flew in helicopters over areas that are still submerged and otherwise unreachable, looking for signs of life.

“As far as we could see from the helicopter, no-one is now waving for help,” a rescue worker from Kurashiki city told AFP.

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