Saturday 10 August 2013

Four confirmed dead in landslide in Akita Prefecture, Japan.

Four people have been confirmed dead following a landslide close to Lake Tazawa in Senboku in Akita Prefecture on northern Honshu, Japan, on Friday 9 August 2013. The bodies of Kazuo Hagawa (61), his mother, Natsu (88), Kiichiro Hagawa (93) and Minoru Hanegawa (58) were found by rescuers on Saturday morning. Hagawa’s wife, Ryuko (54) is still being sought, with around 300 police and military personnel deployed at the scene. The five were in one of eight houses destroyed by a mudslide following record rainfall in the area, with 270 mm of rain being recorded in a day and 88 mm in the worst hour. Landslides are a common problem after severe weather events, as excess pore water pressure can overcome cohesion in soil and sediments, allowing them to flow like liquids. Approximately 90% of all landslides are caused by heavy rainfall. 

Rescue workers at the site of the 9 August 2013 Senboku landslide. AFP.

Many areas of east and south Asia have been hit by exceptional rainfall this year, leading to a string of fatalities in flood and landslide events. Until now Japan has been relatively unaffected, but this week heavy rains have brought a string of problems in Akita and Iwate Prefectures. In addition to the Senboku event, an elderly woman was reportedly killed in a separate landslide that destroyed her home in Hanamaki, and another man is said to have drowned after he was swept away by a swollen river in Nishiwaga (both in Iwate Prefecture).

The approximate location of the 9 August 2013 Senboku landslide. Google Maps.

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