Photo/Illutration Shizuoka prefectural police search on Oct. 28 for evidence related to the July Atami landslide. (Akari Uozumi)

Shizuoka prefectural police searched multiple company offices on Oct. 28 for evidence related to a deadly landslide in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, in July that killed 26 people.

Police believe a man-made embankment high up in the mountains of Atami that was built larger than regulations allowed likely triggered the landslide on July 3. One person is still unaccounted for from that disaster. 

According to sources, police are investigating a possible case of professional negligence resulting in death.

Officers searched the office of the real estate company in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, that initially submitted the application for the landfill work, along with the office of the current owner of the land.

According to government officials from Shizuoka prefecture and the city of Atami, the Odawara real estate company applied to the city in 2007 for the landfill project.

But the volume of dirt and sand brought in for the landfill far exceeded what the plan had outlined. About 70,000 cubic meters of fill dirt, or around double what was detailed in the plan, was dumped in the landfill.

That created an embankment about 50 meters high, which was about three times higher than what was set out in the initial plan.

In February 2011, the property was sold to the current owner, who resides in Atami.

Shizuoka prefectural officials believe the landfill greatly increased the damage caused by the landslide.

In August, bereaved family members submitted a criminal complaint against the past president of the Odawara real estate company for suspected professional negligence resulting in death and against the current owner on suspicion of gross negligence resulting in death and injury.

After they finish analyzing the documents seized in the searches, police are expected to question those involved to determine the causes of the landslide and if there were any failures of safety management.

Shizuoka prefectural and Atami municipal officials released their report on Oct. 18 detailing how the local governments responded to the matter.

Local officials were aware of the possible danger from a landslide in the event of an embankment collapse, according to the report.

In June 2011, the Atami municipal government was preparing to issue an order forcing the Odawara real estate company to take additional safety measures. However, that order was never made because the company had begun construction work to deal with the problem. But it turned out that the work was never completed.

A lawyer for the current owner of the land released a statement that said no construction work had been conducted from the time the land was acquired until the landslide occurred because local officials told them not to touch the land.