Thousands to Evacuate as Rain Hampers Japan Landslide Search

More than 100,000 people are being urged to evacuate as torrential rains sweep across western Japan, hampering the search for 47 people feared missing after landslides in Hiroshima that killed 40, according to NHK.

Intermittent rain is forecast to continue and the number of evacuees is expected to rise, according to a spokesman at the Hiroshima city’s disaster management office. More than 2,300 people have been evacuated, said the spokesman, who asked not to be named, citing his office policy.

A record 217.5 millimeters (about 8.5 inches) of rain fell in parts of Hiroshima over three hours on Aug. 20, Japan’s meteorological agency said. About 2,800 military, police and fire personnel are searching for victims, public broadcaster NHK reported, while the defense ministry said it sent about 90 vehicles and four aircraft to help with the search and rescue.

Disaster management minister Keiji Furuya has visited the the city that lies about 800 kilometers (500 miles) west of Tokyo. At least one rescue worker was among the dead, the Sankei newspaper reported, citing the Hiroshima fire department.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been shuttling between his summer home and Tokyo to coordinate a response to the disaster. He said he wants to visit the landslide site as soon as he can, Kyodo News reported today.

“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.”

Vacation Golf

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, 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 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.”