Rains raise search risk after Japan landslides

Tokyo - Forecasts of more heavy rains in western Japan raised the risk on Friday of further landslides in Hiroshima, hindering efforts to locate dozens of people still missing after hills around the city collapsed earlier this week.

The fire and disaster management agency said 40 people were confirmed dead and 47 were unaccounted for after torrents of mud, rocks and timber swept through at least five valleys in Hiroshima's suburbs after heavy rain early on Wednesday. Dozens more were injured.

About 2 800 police and military personnel have been searching for the victims, at times suspending their work to reduce risks from further slides.

Rescue workers said the massive amounts of mud slowed them down, while narrow alleyways in the area made it difficult to use heavy machinery to remove debris.

Authorities issued evacuation orders for 4 386 people in the city of Hiroshima on Friday due to fears of further danger and a warning for 164 000 others.

The disaster has prompted questions over why so many houses were built near unstable slopes and why an evacuation advisory came an hour after the first mudslide on Wednesday.