• Jiji


Some 300 residents remained evacuated in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, one month after a major mudslide struck the city as local officials prayed Tuesday for victims that killed at least 22 people.

Police officers and firefighters are continuing their search for five people who remain unaccounted for.

Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu and Atami Mayor Sakae Saito offered a silent prayer in the city's Izusan district, where the mudslide occurred on July 3 and caused extensive damage.

"Evacuees are being forced to lead inconvenient lives. We must do all we can so they can bring back their tranquil normal lives," Kawakatsu said.

"Our hearts are crushed," Saito said. "We'll continue to do our utmost to search for those missing."

The mudslide damaged 131 homes, 44 of which were completely swept away. The evacuees are living in two hotels in the city.

Local governments had secured public and private-sector rental housing for some 180 households by the end of July, and have started offering them to evacuees.

Traffic restrictions on National Route 135, once closed after the mudslide, have been lifted, and electricity and gas have been restored to homes still standing. Water outages now affect only around 70 homes, compared with around 1,100 homes lacking water at one point.

The resumption of lifeline services has led many people to join volunteer activities to help the area.

Many issues remain, however, including an inability to confirm the extent of damage to homes in no-go areas.

Securing temporary storage space for massive amounts of mud and debris from the mudslide presents a major challenge.

In addition, some residents increasingly need psychological care after prolonged living as evacuees.

The mudslide occurred at around 10:30 a.m. on July 3 in the upstream section of the Aizome River. Dirt flowed about 2 kilometers toward the sea, sweeping away buildings along the river.

Roughly 55,500 cubic meters of soil used in land-raising work is believed to be behind the mudslide, according to the Shizuoka Prefectural Government.

The prefecture has determined that the construction work for the raised land was inappropriate. It is considering action against the developer in charge of the construction work.

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