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TOKYO -- Rain-sodden slopes collapsed in torrents of mud, rock and debris Wednesday in the outskirts of Hiroshima, killing at least 36 people and leaving seven missing. Hillsides were swept down into residential areas in at least five valleys in the suburbs of the western Japanese city after heavy rains. Public broadcaster NHK showed rescue workers suspended by ropes from police helicopters pulling victims from the rubble.
Hiroshima prefectural police said 36 people were confirmed dead and at least seven others were missing as of Wednesday night. Local government official Nakatoshi Okamoto said a few people were washed away it was hard to know exactly how many were unaccounted for, because harsh conditions in the disaster area were hindering rescuers. Authorities issued warnings that additional rain could trigger more landslides and flooding. The land collapsed so quickly at multiple locations that evacuation advisories came an hour after the first mudslide, said Kenzo Kanayama, the city's disaster management chief. "We misjudged the situation. It was too late," he said.