Atami Rescue
Rescuers search for missing people buried in a mudslide caused by days of heavy rain in Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture.
  • Intermittent heavy rains have slowed rescue efforts in a Japanese town hit by a landslide.
  • The rains could trigger a second mudslide as more than 1,000 rescuers search for survivors.
  • Three people have died and 150 are still missing.
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Heavy rain is hampering a rescue operation in the Japanese hot spring resort town of Atami after a landslide smashed through the area on Saturday, killing three people and destroying more than 130 homes so far.

Around 1,100 firefighters, police, and Self-Defense Forces personnel have been clearing mud from the town in their search for nearly 150 unaccounted people, reported Japan Today.

The rescuers are working in a race against time. Atami mayor Sakae Saito told members of the local task force that "the first 72 hours (after the incident) are crucial," according to Kyodo News.

However, the intermittent rains threaten to cause a second mudslide. The initial disaster was caused by a deluge of 22 inches of rainfall – more than a month's worth of precipitation – over several days, sending 3.5 million cubic feet of soil tearing through Atami at around 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, reported Kyodo News.

The torrential rains have made the situation "unpredictable," Hiroki Onuma, a local government spokesperson, told Reuters.

Atami, about 60 miles southwest of Tokyo, is home to around 36,000 people and several hot spring resorts.

Forecasts by the Japan Meteorological Agency said heavy rains are expected to continue over the next few days and warned the public to be vigilant of more mudslides and flooding, per Japan Today.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has instructed relevant cabinet ministers to work on rescue efforts with local authorities to watch carefully for a second disaster, the outlet said.

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