Heavy Rains, Landslides Kill 39 In Japan

By: Yoko Wakatsuki and Mayra Cuevas
By: Yoko Wakatsuki and Mayra Cuevas

TOKYO (CNN) -- Residents combed through mud and debris looking for bodies of their loved ones after heavy rains triggered landslides that swallowed up homes in the western Japanese city of Hiroshima.

The landslides Wednesday killed at least 39 people, including a 2-year-old boy and his 11-year-old brother who were buried by debris in Asaminami Ward, authorities told the Kyodo news agency.

At least 10 others are missing, according to Hiroshima police. Authorities fear the number could be much higher because the landslides hit a crowded residential area.

A neighbor said he heard the boys' mother scream for help and rushed to help her, digging with his bare hands, Kyodo reported. He reached the toddler, but could not free him in time.

"His body was still warm," the man told Kyodo.

An elderly resident of the Asakita Ward, one of the hardest-hit areas, described roads as resembling rivers. "I thought it was dangerous to go outside, so I was in my room listening to disaster information all through the night," she told Kyodo.

Heavy rains have pounded the area. In the last 24 hours, it received a record 9.5 inches of rain, the Kyodo news agency said.

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui acknowledged evacuation advisories came late, Kyodo reported. Matsui said city officials will investigate how they can improve.

According to Hiroshima's disaster control center, as of Thursday morning 1,018 people have been evacuated from destroyed houses and moved to public facilities. An evacuation advisory is in place for 164,108 residents or 68,813 households in Asakita and Asaminami wards in Hiroshima.

About 600 emergency personnel have been deployed to the area. Search and recovery continued Thursday.

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