At least six people were confirmed dead and 22 were missing after rain-soaked hills in the outskirts of Hiroshima gave way early on Wednesday in several landslides.
Video footage from the Japanese national broadcaster NHK showed suburban homes in the western Japanese city surrounded by streams of mud and debris, and residents picking their way over piles of rocks and dirt.
Rescue workers suspended by ropes from police helicopters were pulling victims from the rubble as they searched homes stranded amid piles of timber from crushed houses. The fire and disaster authority, citing the local government, said six people were confirmed dead and another 22 were missing as of late morning. It said at least 20 people were injured, one seriously.
Japanese media, citing local police, put the death toll at 32.
“A few people were washed away and it is hard to know exactly how many are unaccounted for,” said local government official Nakatoshi Okamoto, noting that the conditions in the disaster area were hindering efforts to account for all those affected.