August 2014 – ASAHIKAWA, Japan — At least 32 people were killed and nine more were still missing in the western Japanese city of Hiroshima on Wednesday after heavy rain caused flash floods and landslides that buried victims alive as they slept in their homes, the police said. Hundreds of soldiers have been sent to the scene to dig for survivors. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who had been on summer vacation, cut short a game of golf to rush back to Tokyo to lead the response to the disaster, government officials said. While deadly landslides are common in this densely populated, mountainous nation, death tolls rarely reach this high. According to the police, the dead included two young boys, brothers aged 2 and 11, who were both buried when a wall of mud engulfed their home in a neighborhood that sits at the foot of a steep mountainside. A firefighter also died while engaged in rescue operations, the police said. The landslides took place around 3:30 a.m. local time, after rainfall of up to four inches per hour was recorded by the national weather agency. Many of the victims appeared to be asleep when entire hillsides, heavy with the weight of rainwater, suddenly gave way.
Japanese news reports quoted one survivor as saying that he had heard the frantic screams of the buried boys’ mother and had rushed to find their house covered in mud. He said he dug with his bare hands until he found the younger boy, but he could not free him because of furniture and other debris, according to Kyodo, a Japanese news agency. The boy was dug out two hours later by rescuers, who were unable to revive him, the agency said. Video footage taken by helicopter showed thick layers of mud and, in some places, raging torrents of muddy water flowing through what had been neighborhoods of tightly spaced homes. Many of the wooden houses had been shattered into broken planks and piles of colorful roof tiles. –NY Times