Japan landslide emergency worsens
Friday 22 August 2014 06.46 BST
Agence France-Presse in Tokyo
Rescuer and boy he was trying to save are swept away as number of missing rises and Hiroshima braces for more rain
The death toll from huge landslides in western Japan could more than double, police have said, as the number of missing people rose to 52 in addition to the 39 confirmed dead.
Dozens of homes were destroyed when mountainsides collapsed on the outskirts of Hiroshima on Wednesday, with tonnes of mud, rocks and debris crashing into suburban communities.
More than 4,000 people have been ordered to evacuate their homes after forecasters warned more rain was on the way to already soaked hillsides, heaping misery on an area that has seen record downpours.
Firefighters, police and soldiers had to abandon search efforts on Thursday night because of the risk of further landfalls. One rescuer was killed in a secondary mudslide on Wednesday along with a small boy he was trying to carry to safety.
The confirmed death toll on Friday stood at 39 but the number of missing was raised to 52, having risen steadily over the last two days from initial single figures.
Officials said improved co-ordination between emergency services and local authorities meant they were aware of more people who had not been heard of since the disaster.
“We initially counted only the people who were certain to be missing, such as those witnessed being carried away in gushing water,” said a spokesman at Hiroshima prefecture police.
“As we continued to investigate and assess the situation, the number rose,” he said.
Firefighters and soldiers were still keeping heavy machinery away from collapsed houses, preferring to remove debris by hand in the hope of finding survivors.