Troops join search for missing in northern Japan landslide

TOKYO (AP) — A landslide destroyed about a dozen homes in northern Japan on Saturday, leaving at least two people missing, and troops were on their way to help in the rescue effort, officials said.

Two people, a man and a woman, were rescued from homes that were buried in dirt that had tumbled down a nearby mountain in Tsuruoka city in Yamagata Prefecture in northwestern Japan. But more residents were feared still caught beneath the rubble.

A rescue operation involving 80 firefighters and police officers began after a call came in asking for help shortly after midnight, according to police. The prefecture has also requested rescue help from the Ministry of Defense, Yamagata official Susumu Saito said.

“We don’t have word yet of their arrival, but an official request has been made,” he said.

Some nearby residents have evacuated to a public facility as a precaution. Saito said at least two people were still unaccounted for.

The injuries of the two rescued people were minor, police said in a statement.

Covered with mountains, Japan is prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes and flooding. The news came as families are preparing to gather for New Year’s celebrations, Japan’s most important festival.

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Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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