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Search for mudslide survivors expanded in Japan; 4 confirmed dead

By Don Jacobson
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Search for mudslide survivors expanded in Japan; 4 confirmed dead
An aerial view shows the landslide site in Atami, Japan, on Monday. Photo by EPA-EFE/Jiji Press 

July 5 (UPI) -- Rescuers expanded their search for victims of a massive mudslide in the Japanese coastal city of Atami on Monday as the official death toll rose to four and 80 others remained missing.

Officials of Shizuoka Prefecture in central Japan confirmed that two more people died in Saturday's mudslide, official broadcaster NHK reported.

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Two people were found alive Monday, raising the number of people rescued to 22, but dozens of others remained unaccounted for as more than 1,500 firefighters, police and military personnel joined the recovery effort.

The massive slide, which tore through the city from a mountainside about a mile away, washed away at least 130 homes and buildings. It followed torrential rains in the area.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo that rescuers will continue the search for survivors for as long as necessary and instructed the government to "save as many lives as possible" during a disaster management task force meeting earlier in the day.

Government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said investigators are looking to the possibility the mudslide was worsened when 54,000 cubic meters of soil piled onto the mountainside by a real estate company in 2007 collapsed into a river.

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Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu vowed to look into how the mound was built and to determine if there is a connection between the land development work and the landslide.

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