A devastating mudslide which swept away homes and cars in a town in Japan has left two people dead and around 20 missing, according to officials.
The deluge, which crashed into rows of houses following heavy rains in Atami, a town southwest of Tokyo, has left 130 properties damaged and many people feared dead.
Emergency services made up of around 1,000 people including troops, firefighters and coast guard ships have been working to clear the mud from the streets and reach those thought to be trapped below.
The aerial image shows the devastation of the mudslide that has ripped through homes in Izusan in Atami
Rescue workers including firefighters, troops and the coastguard have been working to try and find survivors under the mud
Two women have been confirmed dead and were discovered by coast guard services close to the sea.
Around 121 people in Atami have been evacuated as the rain continues to pour, amid concerns of flash flooding in the area.
Prime minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters 19 people had been rescued, while officials warned that the number of those unaccounted for may rise.
‘The area is still having heavy rainfall, but arduous rescue efforts will continue,’ he said. ‘Please act as quickly as you can to stay safe.’
Bystanders watched on in horror as the mudslide, which some captured on their mobile phones, devastated the seaside resort in Shizuoka prefecture.
A bus was captured buried in the mud at the site of the landslide, which was triggered by torrential rainfall in the area
Some houses were swept away into the sea by the landslide, leaving many without homes and others needing to evacuate
Emergency services have been on the scene hoping to find some survivors under the wreckage
Rescue workers remove debris from a house damaged the landslide in Atami
The picture shows how the mudslide tore through the village, sweeping away homes and cars in the process
Firefighters help a resident to evacuate her home following the devastating mudslide on Saturday, July 3
A local firefighters checks a car, which has landed upside down, after the mudslide tore through the area
Izusan, the area hit by the mudslide, includes hot springs, residential areas and a famous Shinto shrine, a structure built to enshrine or house kami, spirits or holy powers or ‘Gods’.
Witnesses reported hearing a giant roar before watching their homes disappear under the waves of mud.
Mariko Hattori, an interpreter who lives a short walk from where the tsunami-like torrent of mud struck, said: ‘The first things I noticed were lots of emergency vehicles. I didn’t know what happened at first. Then I was frightened when I saw the footage.’
Weather forecasts predict that the rainfall is set to continue, with warnings of thunderstorms and showers for another week.
Landslides are not uncommon in the country, but last year a government report showed a 50 per cent increase of incidents over the last 10 years.
The report concluded that the trend reflected a rise in torrential rains experienced in the country due to climate change.
According to the report, the average number of landslides per year was just over 1,000 between 2000 and 2009, but had jumped to 1,476 between 2010 and 2019.
This image of a car which has been completely destroyed shows the extent of the damage that the mudslide has caused
Search and rescue operations are conducted by firefighters and Japan Self-Defence Force
More than 1,000 soldiers, firefighters and police have been conducting a huge search and rescue operation
Members of Japanese Self-Defence Forces (JSDF) and rescue workers help residents to evacuate from their homes
Firefighters from Tokyo have been brought in to help in the search and rescue operation
A rescuers conducts a search operation with the help of a sniffer dog in the hopes of finding a survivor
Rescue workers have been on the site in Atami, Shixuoka Prefecture in central Japan searching for survivors
Rescuers have had to wade through mud as part of their search and rescue operation as the rain continues to fall
This image shows the extent of the damage done by the mudslide, which has swept this house away
In 2018, the country was hit by 3,459 landslides, triggered by heavy rainfall. In 2019, similar conditions triggered 1,996 landslides.
Exactly one year ago, on July 4 2020, severe flooding hit the southern Japanese island of Kyushu following heavy rainfall, with millions ordered to evacuate their homes.
The rainfall triggered 12 different landslide events and 77 people were killed.
In a news conference held on Sunday, Shizuoka governor Heita Kawakatsu said land development upstream from the affected area may have played a role in the disaster.
He said massive amounts of soil heaped up in the area were washed down.
It is not known whether the development was the direct cause, but Mr Kawakatsu has said the land development will be investigated.
Previous media reports show that a planned housing development in the area had been abandoned after its operator experienced a financial problem.
A Japan Self-Defence Force (JSDF) soldier carries a search dog at the site of the landslide
A man removes mud with a bulldozer at the site of the landslide following torrential rain
A cooking pan pictured covered in mud following the landside which has decimated people’s homes