Prayers offered for victims of 2011 heavy rains in western Japan

Prayers have been offered at a ceremony for people who died or went missing 12 years ago in floods and landslides that hit the area around the Kii Peninsula in western Japan.

Heavy rains brought by a severe tropical storm caused a series of flooding and landslides in the area on September 4, 2011, leaving a total of 88 people dead or missing in the prefectures of Wakayama, Nara and Mie.

The ceremony was held on Monday in the town of Nachi-Katsuura in Wakayama Prefecture, where 29 people were killed or went missing -- the largest number recorded in the area. The event started from around 1 a.m., the time when the disaster, including the landslides, began.

Bereaved family members and local residents offered prayers in front of 29 LED lights representing the victims, that were set up in front of a monument to them.

Iwabuchi Michio heads the group of bereaved family members. He lost his father and nephew in the disaster, and said his nephew would have grown up by now if he were still alive. He added that he wants people to recall the disaster on September 4 and become aware of the importance of disaster prevention.

Kusumoto Kotaro said his childhood friend was killed in the calamity. The 20-year-old man said they would have been able to meet and chat even now if there had been no disaster. He said he came to offer a prayer to show his grown-up face to his old-time friend.