A powerful mudslide carrying a deluge of black water and debris crashed into rows of houses in a town west of Tokyo following heavy rains on Saturday, leaving at least 19 people missing, officials said.
Dozens of homes may have been buried in Atami, a town known for hot springs, said Shizuoka prefecture spokesman Takamichi Sugiyama.
Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu told reporters that the Coast Guard had discovered two people who had been washed into the sea by the mudslide. Their hearts had stopped, but their deaths were not yet officially declared, he said. Other details of their identity were not released.
“I offer my deepest condolences to everyone who has suffered,” he said, adding that utmost efforts will be made to rescue lives.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has called together an emergency task force to handle the crisis.
Torrential rains have slammed parts of Japan starting earlier this week. Experts said dirt had been loosened, increasing landslide risks in a country filled with valleys and mountains.
Sugiyama said it had been raining hard in the area all morning. Self-defense forces will join firefighters and police in the rescue operation, he added. Evacuation warnings were issued for a widespread area.