Devastating mudslides leave dozens dead in Hiroshima, Japan

 

Devastating mudslides have left over 30 people dead after record-breaking rain fell in and around the Japan city of Hiroshima early Wednesday morning, local time.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, around 3.9 inches of rain fell in just one hour in the Hiroshima Prefecture in the early morning hours, local time. Over eight inches of rain fell within three hours. Both of these rainfall rates are the highest the prefecture has ever seen, and this August has been the wettest on record for Hiroshima, as well.

These rainfall totals are comparable to what we saw in New York last week, though when this kind of excessive rain falls on mountainous areas, the hillsides become dislodged and have nowhere to go but down.

The Japan Times recounts how one man made it out of the mudslide alive:

Yukio Takamura, 58, who lives just 100 meters from the 77-year-old woman confirmed dead in Wednesday’s landslide, was among the survivors. He said the downpour had started suddenly at around 8 p.m. on Tuesday and that he had been awakened by the sound of thunder at around 2 a.m. on Wednesday.

Takamura said he started to feel worried around 4 a.m. Wednesday when the house began shaking and making a roaring sound.

He then found himself sat in his garden, covered in mud. His family had also managed to escape the flow of mud and debris, he added.

“My house was built around 100 years ago, but this is the first time it’s been affected by the landslide,” said Takamura, whose leg was injured in the disaster. “I was really scared.”

The Weather Channel writes that landslides in Japan have become more common in recent years:

Landslides are a constant risk in mountainous, crowded Japan, where many homes are built on or near steep slopes. Torrential rains in the early morning apparently caused slopes to collapse in an area where many of the buildings were newly constructed.

Damage from land and mudslides has increased over the past few decades due to more frequent heavy rains, despite extensive work on stabilizing slopes. In the past decade there have been nearly 1,200 landslides a year, according to the land ministry, up from an average of about 770 a year in the previous decade.

The Japan Meteorological Agency warns that more rain is possible in the prefecture the next few days, as storms continue to sweep across the country.

Angela Fritz is an atmospheric scientist and The Post's deputy weather editor.
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