OITA – Rescuers recovered the body of a woman on Thursday from the site of a massive landslide in Oita Prefecture after confirming the death of a male resident the day before.
The body is believed to be that of one of five women who remained unaccounted for after a mountain slope collapsed behind a group of houses early Wednesday in the Yabakei area on the outskirts of Nakatsu.
Efforts to find the women, aged 21 to 90, have been hindered by a massive amount of debris and the risk of more landslides at the site.
Some 540 members of the Ground Self-Defense Force, police and firefighters took part in Thursday’s search.
They used heavy machinery in locations where the houses are believed to be buried, while carefully digging with shovels near the area where the body of 45-year-old Yoshinori Iwashita was found the day before.
Part of the mountain collapsed at around 3:50 a.m. Wednesday, with an area about 200 meters in width and 100 meters in height sliding down and burying the houses, police said.
Iwashita and the other five were living in three of the four houses hit by the landslide.
While landslides are often triggered by heavy rain or earthquakes, none were reported in the area at the time. A team of geological experts and officials sent by the government said Wednesday that the landslide could possibly have been triggered by a crack on the surface of the bedrock due to weathering.
The area is part of the Yabahitahikosan quasi-national park and is in the scenic Yabakei valley, where 800,000 tourists visit every year, according to the municipal government.