Aug. 22 (Bloomberg) --The number of people missing after torrential rain triggered landslides in the western Japanese city of Hiroshima rose to 51, with 39 others confirmed dead, national broadcaster NHK said.
About 630 self-defense forces personnel have been sent to the area, along with about 90 vehicles and four aircraft, the defense ministry said. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been shuttling between his summer home and Tokyo to coordinate a response to the disaster, while Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday conveyed his condolences to Abe.
A record 217.5 millimeters (about 8.5 inches) of rain fell in parts of Hiroshima over three hours on Aug. 20, the meteorological agency said. About 2,500 military, police and fire personnel are searching for victims, NHK reported.
“Unfortunately there are many people still missing,” Abe told officials in a meeting at his official residence yesterday. “I want the government to work together to do all in its power to rescue them as soon as possible.”
Disaster management minister Keiji Furuya has visited the the city that lies about 800 kilometers (497 miles) west of Tokyo. At least one rescue worker was among the dead, the Sankei newspaper reported, citing the Hiroshima fire department.
Rain may continue to fall in the area over today and tomorrow, the meteorological agency said, warning residents to be alert for further landslides.
The news from Hiroshima led Abe to cut short a game of golf on Aug. 20 in Yamanashi Prefecture, where he has a summer home, the Jiji news agency reported. He was playing with Trade Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and former Prime minister Yoshiro Mori, and returned to Yamanashi that evening. He returned to Tokyo yesterday, Kyodo News said.
In January 2001, Mori came under pressure to resign as premier when he finished a round of golf after being told a Japanese fishing boat carrying 13 high school students had been struck off Hawaii by a U.S. submarine. He stepped down in April that year.
Banri Kaieda, leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, criticized Abe for not abandoning his golf game more quickly, in comments published on the party’s website.
“Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must have known how tense and serious the situation was,” Kaieda said. “He’s always saying he will protect the lives of the people of Japan, so he should take actions to do that.”
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Davis at email@example.com Andy Sharp, Stuart Biggs