More than 3,000 workers combing debris for 28 still missing

Abe visits landslide-hit district in Hiroshima as death toll mounts

AP, Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Hiroshima on Monday as rescuers expanded their search for the dozens of people still missing from landslides around the city that have left at least 58 dead.

Rain showers were raising risks of more slides and hampering the search effort, and also triggering slides elsewhere in the nation. The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said Monday that two women died after a hill collapsed on their home in Hokkaido on Sunday.

In Hiroshima, the death toll from the natural disaster rose to 58, with the identities of 46 people confirmed, while 28 people were still missing after rain-soaked slopes swept through several neighborhoods on Aug. 20. Authorities announced their names Monday, appealing to the public for information, as the search was extended for bodies that might have been swept further away as the slides rushed through.

About 3,400 rescue workers were combing through debris with picks, shovels and chain saws.

Abe postponed an inspection visit Sunday to avoid interfering with disaster relief operations but met with a disaster task force Monday in Hiroshima.

“We want to restore peoples’ safe, normal lives as soon as possible,” he said.

Abe cut short his summer holiday but has drawn some criticism for briefly continuing a round of golf after hearing of the disaster.

Landslides are a frequent occurrence in western Japan during the typhoon season, and persisting unstable weather conditions continued to pose a threat in many areas, including Hiroshima, where rescue workers were occasionally suspending work in some places due to fears of further collapses on steep hillsides.

Authorities are considering developing an early warning system for downpours and landslides.