At least 36 dead in Hiroshima landslide

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At least 36 dead in Hiroshima landslide
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: Rescue workers at the site of a landslide in a residential area on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted people are missing after torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early on Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: A man walks through the flood water at the site of a landslide in a residential area on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted people are missing after torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early on Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)
This aerial view shows damage caused by a landslide after heavy rains hit the city of Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. The number of people known to have died when a hillside collapsed in western Japan has hit 27, the government said on August 20, with a further 10 people still unaccounted for. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO/Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
This aerial view shows the damage caused by a landslide after heavy rains hit the city of Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. The number of people known to have died when a hillside collapsed in western Japan has hit 27, the government said on August 20, with a further 10 people still unaccounted for. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO/Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST A pet dog carried by the Japanese Self Defense Force at the site of a landslide in a residential area on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted people are missing after torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early on Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)
This aerial view shows rescue workers looking for survivors at the site of a landslide after heavy rains hit the city of Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. The number of people known to have died when a hillside collapsed in western Japan has hit 27, the government said on August 20, with a further 10 people still unaccounted for. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO/Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
Cars damaged by a landslide lie in mud and debris after heavy rains hit the city of Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. The number of people known to have died when a hillside collapsed in western Japan has hit 27, the government said on August 20, with a further 10 people still unaccounted for. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO/Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) A house is collapsed in the end of a street blocked by fallen trees on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) People wait for rescue on the roof of a house on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
Collapsed houses sit surrounded in mud after a landslide hit the area caused by heavy rains in the city of Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. The number of people known to have died when a hillside collapsed in western Japan has hit 27, the government said on August 20, with a further 10 people still unaccounted for. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO/Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Mud water fall down from the street on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Rescue workers including police officers and firefighters scoop the mud out of a house on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Houses and cars are soaked in mud water after the landslide on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) A rescue worker walks on a stone fence by the mud covered street on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Houses and cars are soaked in mud water after the landslide on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) A woman carried by rescue workers arrives at the Hiroshima Heliport after being rescued from the landslide damaged area on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Houses and cars are soaked in mud water in the area damaded by landslides after heavy rain and rescue workers are seen on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Houses and cars are soaked in mud water after the landslide on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this aerial image, the damage caused by landslides after heavy rain and rescue workers are seen on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun/The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this aerial image, the damage caused by landslides after heavy rain is seen on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun/The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this aerial image, the damage caused by landslides after heavy rain and rescue work are seen on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun/The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this aerial image, the damage caused by landslides after heavy rain and rescue workers are seen on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun/The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this aerial image, the flooding Ota River after the heavy rain is seen on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this aerial image, the damage caused by landslides after heavy rain is seen on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun/The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this aerial image, the damage caused by landslides after heavy rain is seen on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this aerial image, the damage caused by landslides after heavy rain is seen on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun/The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this aerial image, the damage caused by landslides after heavy rain is seen on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this aerial image, the damage caused by landslides after heavy rain is seen on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this aerial image, the damage caused by landslides after heavy rain is seen on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun/The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this aerial image, the damage caused by landslides after heavy rain is seen on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun/The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this aerial image, the damage caused by landslides after heavy rain is seen on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun/The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this aerial image, the damage caused by landslides after heavy rain is seen on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun/The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this aerial image, the damage caused by landslides after heavy rain is seen on August 20, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. At least 18 people were confirmed dead and several unaccounted number of people are missing after the torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima early Wednesday August 20, 2014. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun/The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
A man stands on debris at the site of a landslide after heavy rains hit the city of Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. At least 18 people were killed and another 13 were still missing after a huge landslide engulfed homes in western Japan, reports said on August 20. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO/Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
A man (C-top) stands on a debris piled high at the site of a landslide after heavy rains hit the city of Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. At least 18 people were killed and another 13 were still missing after a huge landslide engulfed homes in western Japan, reports said on August 20. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO/Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescue workers look for survivors at the site of a landslide after heavy rains hit the city of Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. At least 18 people were killed and another 13 were still missing after a huge landslide engulfed homes in western Japan, reports said on August 20. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO/Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
Soldiers and rescue workers look for survivors at the site of a landslide after heavy rains hit the city of Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. At least 18 people were killed and another 13 were still missing after a huge landslide engulfed homes in western Japan, reports said on August 20. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO/Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
This aerial view shows the damage caused by a landslide after heavy rains hit the city of Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. At least 18 people were killed and another 13 were still missing after a huge landslide engulfed homes in western Japan, reports said on August 20. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO/Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
A rescue helicopter flys over the damage caused by a landslide after heavy rains hit the city of Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. At least 18 people were killed and another 13 were still missing after a huge landslide engulfed homes in western Japan, reports said on August 20. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO/Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
This aerial view shows policemen and rescue workers looking for survivors at a landslide site after heavy rains hit the city of Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. At least 18 people were killed and another 13 were still missing after a huge landslide engulfed homes in western Japan, reports said on August 20. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO/Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
This aerial view shows the damage caused by a landslide after heavy rains hit the city of Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. At least 18 people were killed and another 13 were still missing after a huge landslide engulfed homes in western Japan, reports said on August 20. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO/Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
This aerial view shows policemen and rescue workers looking for survivors at a landslide site after heavy rains hit the city of Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. At least 18 people were killed and another 13 were still missing after a huge landslide engulfed homes in western Japan, reports said on August 20. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO/Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
A rescue helicopter flys over the damage caused by a landslide after heavy rains hit the city of Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. At least 18 people were killed and another 13 were still missing after a huge landslide engulfed homes in western Japan, reports said on August 20. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO/Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
This aerial view shows policemen and rescue workers looking for survivors at a landslide site after heavy rains hit the city of Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. At least 18 people were killed and another 13 were still missing after a huge landslide engulfed homes in western Japan, reports said on August 20. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO/Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
This aerial view shows the damage caused by a landslide after heavy rains hit the city of Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. At least 18 people were killed and another 13 were still missing after a huge landslide engulfed homes in western Japan, reports said on August 20. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO / Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
This aerial view shows the damage caused by a landslide after heavy rains hit the city of Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. At least 18 people were killed and another 13 were still missing after a huge landslide engulfed homes in western Japan, reports said on August 20. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO / Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo shows houses surrounded by debris after a landslide caused by heavy rains hit the neighborhood in Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. At least 18 people were killed and another 13 were still missing after a huge landslide engulfed homes in western Japan, reports said on August 20. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO / Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
Police and rescue workers head up a hill toward the disaster zone after heavy rains caused a landslide (top C) in Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. At least 18 people were killed and another 13 were still missing after a huge landslide engulfed homes in western Japan, reports said on August 20. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO / Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
Police and rescue workers inspect the site of a landslide caused by heavy rains in Hiroshima, western Japan, on August 20, 2014. At least four people were killed and several more are missing by landslides in Hiroshima, rescuers said on August 20, while local media reported the death toll had reached seven. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO / Jiji Press (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
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BY ELAINE KURTENBACH

(Reuters) - At least 36 people, including several children, were killed in Japan on Wednesday, when landslides triggered by torrential rain slammed into the outskirts of the western city of Hiroshima, and the toll could rise further, police said.

Seven people were missing after a month's worth of rain fell overnight, loosening slopes already saturated by heavy rain over the past few weeks.

"There was rain and thunder all night, beating down so hard I was scared to go outside," a resident told Fuji TV. "Great big drops. I've never seen anything like this."

Helicopters clattered overhead, lifting out survivors, as rescue workers searched through mud and piles of stones in residential areas about 5 km (3 miles) from the city centre.

Among those dug out of the debris were two brothers, aged eleven and two, whose house was struck as they slept.

A child's red school bag, covered in mud, lay in the debris. Houses had been pushed 100 metres (yards) by the landslide in the worst-hit area, where thick, knee-high mud hampered rescue efforts.

"The rain was just pouring down and the street in front of my house turned into a river," a man in his 70s told national television NHK.

Hiroshima city authorities issued an evacuation advisory notice about an hour after the first landslide on Wednesday.

"Something went wrong in our analysis (of the situation) ... We failed to issue an evacuation advisory ahead of the disaster. Looking back, I believe this is something we need to amend," an official at the city's fire department said.

The soil in the area was of a kind that absorbed water until it suddenly loosened and slid, increasing the danger, disaster management experts told NHK.

Cities in land-scarce Japan often expand into mountainous areas, leaving such development vulnerable to landslides.

About 240 mm (9 inches) of rain fell in the area in the 24 hours up to Wednesday morning, a record-breaking level equivalent to a month's worth of rain in a usual August, the Meteorological Agency said. Roughly half of that rain fell in one hour on Wednesday.

The force of the landslide crumbled asphalt roads, while streams of mud tore through neighbourhoods, turning houses into piles of twisted wreckage. Boulders with a diameter of as much as three metres (yards) lay scattered around.

More rain was likely in western Japan later on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cut short his summer vacation to head back to Tokyo. He said he would dispatch several hundred military personnel to help with rescue efforts. By Wednesday evening, about 500 such troops had been sent in.

Landslides killed 31 people in Hiroshima in 1999, including six in the same area hit this time.

(Writing by Elaine Lies, Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Robert Birsel and Clarence Fernandez)

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