On Saturday 3 July, a massive landslide buried several houses in Atami, Japan. An extremely difficult mission for the search and rescue dog teams of our member organisation Rescue Dog Trainer's Association (RDTA).
The night before the disaster, heavy monsoon rains had softened the ground above the popular tourist resort of Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture, about 90 kilometres southwest of Tokyo. In a short time, it rained as much as it usually does in the whole month of July. The result was three consecutive mudslides that stretched over a length of about two kilometres and destroyed or damaged about 130 houses. According to initial information from the municipality, more than 20 inhabitants were considered missing.
Only 15 minutes after the incident, the Japanese search and rescue dog organisation RDTA announced their readiness for deployment and on the same day they set off for Atami with five search and rescue dog teams. After initial coordination with the local rescue organisations, the search began the next morning. In close cooperation with search and rescue dog teams from other organisations, several searches for missing persons were carried out on Sunday. However, the work of the search teams had to be suspended several times because of the danger of further landslides.
A temporary decision was made on Sunday evening to suspend the search with dogs due to the need for intensive mud and rubble removal. The RDTA teams returned to Yokohama and continued to monitor the situation. Only two days later, three search and rescue dog teams were again deployed to search the area for missing victims. After four days of deployment, the search operations were officially terminated on Wednesday, 7 July.
Sadly, no survivors could be located by the search and rescue dogs of our Japanese member organisation. The chances of survival in such incidents are very low. As the pictures clearly show, the mission was very challenging for all involved. The teams did a fantastic job, showed great cooperation with other search and rescue dog teams and provided valuable support to the emergency services in locating casualties.
We sincerely thank our RDTA search and rescue dog teams for their tireless efforts and sharing their experiences from this mission.
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