Authorities in Japan have dramatically increased their estimate of the number of people still missing after a landslide ripped through a coastal city over the weekend.
Reports say three people were killed in the disaster, which occurred after days of torrential rains in Atami, a famous hot spring resort about 60 miles (90 km) southwest of Tokyo.
Authorities had initially said that about 20 people were still missing, but the number rose to 113 after they checked residential records instead of relying on missing-person reports.
“We are in contact with various groups and are proceeding with the search,” local spokesman Hiroki Onuma told Reuters. So far, 23 people have been rescued, the municipal government said.
Onuma said the rain had stopped in Atami, but added that more was forecast. “The situation is unpredictable,” he said.
Several landslides crashed into part of the city on Saturday morning, sending torrents of mud and rocks through the streets and destroying around 130 buildings.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said police, firefighters and soldiers from the self-defense forces were trying to locate the survivors. “We want to rescue as many victims as possible buried in the rubble, and as soon as possible,” he said.
Shizuoka Prefecture Governor Heita Kawakatsu said authorities would investigate whether construction projects in the area had reduced the mountain’s ability to hold water and caused the landslide.
“The prefecture will examine the causal relationship between the two factors,” the Kyodo news agency quoted him as saying.
The heavy rains exceeded the usual monthly total for July in just 24 hours, loosening huge amounts of soil that cascaded down the steep slopes that lead to the Pacific Ocean.
With much of Japan affected by the annual rainy season, the weather agency said heavy rains were also expected on the opposite side of the country and warned people to be on the alert for new landslides, floods and swollen rivers.
“My mother is still missing,” an Atami resident told public broadcaster NHK. “I never imagined something like this could happen.”
Naoto Date, who returned to his hometown to check on the damage, said the mud had run down a steep mountainside and turned into a deluge when it reached a narrow river below.
“I just wanted to cry when I saw what had happened,” he said.