MINAMATA, Kumamoto Pref. – The body of a 17-year-old male was found Tuesday morning as the search resumed for people missing in the aftermath of the weekend’s devastating mudslides.
Involved in the search were some 450 police officers, firefighters and Ground Self-Defense Force members.
The rescuers identified the body pulled from the Minamata River as that of Yusuke Hayashida, who had been missing since mudslides struck Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture, on Sunday.
Searches are centering on Fukagawa and Hogawachi, the two hardest-hit districts in Minamata. The latest discovery put the death toll from the mudslides and flooding in Kyushu at 15, with seven people still missing, police said.
Authorities said they have increased the number of rescuers around the Minamata River, where a number of bodies have been found since the mudslide.
The slide struck just before 5 a.m. Sunday, when a 300-meter-wide mountain slope came down and wiped out a dozen homes in the Hogawachi district.
Japan Coast Guard patrol ships and government helicopters from neighboring Oita and Fukuoka prefectures are searching the ocean for any people who might have been swept out to sea, Kumamoto prefectural officials said.
Yoshitada Konoike, state minister in charge of disaster prevention, inspected the Hogawachi and Fukagawa districts Tuesday morning.
Gov. Yoshiko Shiotani met him when he arrived at Kumamoto airport and requested financial assistance from the national government by having the afflicted areas earmarked for disaster reconstruction projects.
Konoike told Shiotani the government would study the situation and take necessary steps.
He expressed surprise and shock upon seeing the devastation caused by the Hogawachi mudslide.
In response to residents who said they feared for the future of their community, Konoike replied, “I am sure that you are experiencing great hardship, but we will do our best” in the rebuilding effort.
The nine families whose homes were destroyed in the mudslides are seeking temporary housing, and the city is trying to get them accommodations in vacant municipal housing units as well as corporate housing in the city.
After inspecting the site Monday, experts from the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry estimated that between 50,000 and 100,000 cu. meters of earth, including boulders up to 2 meters in diameter, were carried downriver by the slide.
Season’s last punch
KAGOSHIMA (Kyodo) The rainy season has apparently ended in southern Kyushu, following deadly flooding and mudslides that left more than a dozen people dead in the region, the Meteorological Agency said Tuesday.
The end of the rainy season in Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures on the southern tip of Kyushu comes nine days later than average and a day later than last year, the agency said.
Southern Kyushu entered the rainy season June 9.