As rain continues, mudslide risks dog Hiroshima rescue; death toll at 50

JIJI, Kyodo

The death toll from the deadly mudslides which hit the city of Hiroshima last week rose to 50 on Sunday, with 38 still missing, as rain forced rescue workers to suspend operations in the early hours due to safety concerns.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called off his inspection tour of the disaster area planned for Sunday due to bad weather in the area, the prime minister’s office said.

The trip is expected to be rescheduled.

Also Sunday, disaster management minister Keiji Furuya indicated the need to revise a law on preventing land disasters to make it easier for prefectural governments to designate areas prone to landslides as high-risk zones that require intensive anti-disaster measures.

The soil covering much of Hiroshima Prefecture is known to have a tendency to crumble easily when it becomes saturated. In 1999, heavy rains caused deadly landslides in Hiroshima Prefecture, including in the same area affected by the latest mudslides. But most of the area hit was left without being redesignated.

“There is a concern that (being designated as a high-risk zone) could lead to a fall in land prices, but we believe the value of the land will eventually improve by taking countermeasures,” Furuya said during a program on public broadcaster NHK, adding that the central government has begun considering a law revision.