Overnight landslide leaves 6 missing in southern Japan

Rescue and police personnel work as the scene of a landslide that hit residential homes in Nakatsu, Oita prefecture on April 11, 2018. (JIJI PRESS / AFP)
Rescue and police personnel work as the scene of a landslide that hit residential homes in Nakatsu, Oita prefecture on April 11, 2018. (JIJI PRESS / AFP)

Rescuers were searching on Wednesday for six people after an overnight landslide buried a small cluster of houses at the foot of a steep slope in southern Japan.

The landslide, which occurred around 03:50, damaged four homes in Oita prefecture on Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands, Japan's Fire and Disaster Management Agency said.

Four people from one house have been confirmed safe, but six are missing from the three others, Japanese government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga said.

Aerial photographs from Japanese news media showed a denuded swath on a thickly forested mountainside. At the bottom, a huge mound of earth and tree trunks buried houses, blocked the road in front of them and spilled over into fields on the other side. Blue-suited rescue workers could be seen on top of the rubble.

The cause of the landslide wasn't immediately clear. It occurred in a mountainous inland area known as Yabakei, which is famous for its fall foliage. Oita is also popular among tourists for its hot springs resorts.

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