Landslides tore through Japanese seaside city of Atami . . .
A deadly mudslide struck the coastal hot spring resort town of Atami in Japan’s Shizuoka Prefecture Saturday morning. Local reports have thus far confirmed seven dead, with roughly 27 still missing and at least 130 houses destroyed. After days of heavy rain, the steep hillside gave way in the Izusan neighbourhood, home to a shrine and a bustling shopping district. Approximately 1,700 firefighters, police, and Self-Defense Forces personnel were on the scene this week to remove debris and search mud-swamped houses. On Tuesday, the disaster response hit a grim phase when the 72-hour window seen as crucial for finding survivors passed.
Disaster strikes at a challenging time . . .
Japan is a global leader in disaster risk reduction, including landslide warning technologies and sediment disaster countermeasures such as retaining walls. The country is especially prone to landslides due to the prevalence of communities built into steep hillsides, intense rainfall during the summers, and a high frequency of earthquakes. The landslide in Atami adds to the list of crises the country is already grappling with, including a fifth wave of coronavirus infections, with cases steadily climbing in the capital and authorities considering extending the current state of emergency. This is also occurring during a period of intense preparation for the Tokyo Olympics, due to start in less than three weeks.
Climate change may bring worsening future landslides . . .
These types of disasters typically occur during Japan’s rainy season in June and July, when heavy torrential rains can trigger deadly flooding and mudslides. In 2020, landslides and floods caused by rain in the Kyushu region in southern Japan left nearly 80 people dead. In July 2014, mudslides in residential areas in Hiroshima left more than 36 dead. Experts anticipate that worsening rains brought on by climate change will lead to an increased frequency and intensity of deadly landslides in the future. In collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Japan has sent engineers to landslide-prone areas in countries such as Indonesia, Nepal, and the Philippines, to help develop landslide disaster countermeasure technologies and early warning systems in the region more broadly.