Japan earthquake toll increases to 65 as aftershocks hinder rescue
TOKYO — The death toll from the a series of powerful earthquakes that struck the central Japanese prefecture of Ishikawa earlier this week, increased to 65 on Wednesday, with continued aftershocks and severe weather conditions hindering rescue work.
The worst-hit city of Wajima in Ishikawa has confirmed a total of 32 deaths, Xinhua news agency quoted Japan’s Kyodo News as saying citing local authorities.
In a series of aftershocks experienced by the region, one with a magnitude of 5.6 on Wednesday morning and one with a magnitude of 4.6 on Tuesday evening struck off the Noto Peninsula, both at shallow depths and measuring upper 5 on Japan’s seismic intensity scale which peaks at 7, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).
The full extent of the quake remains unknown as rubble and severed roads still prevent search and rescue operations on Wednesday, two days after the 7.6-magnitude quake on Monday caused extensive structural damage and fires in Wajima.
According to the prefectural government, at least 60 people are now in a state of isolation due to cut-off roads in at least three municipalities, including the severely hit city of Nanao.
The National Institute for Land and Infrastructure Management announced on Tuesday that they detected a significant uplift in the ground surface, reaching approximately four meters in the city of Wajima.
The JMA issued warnings of potential mudslides for Ishikawa prefecture with intermittent rain expected through Thursday in the disaster-hit areas, including some cut-off villages.
A heavy rain alert has been issued for the most-devastated city.
Ishikawa prefectural authorities have asked the central government to send Self-Defense Forces (SDF) personnel for disaster relief, and the forces were set to use helicopters to deliver supplies to cut-off areas, according to local media reports.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a press conference on Wednesday that the government had decided to double the number of SDF members in the disaster-hit region from 1,000 at present.
A day after a tragic collision between a Japan Airlines plane and a Japan Coast Guard aircraft carrying relief goods at Tokyo’s Haneda airport, Kishida said the accident has no impact on disaster relief work and transportation of relief supplies to the areas has been progressing steadily.
A series of strong earthquakes, with a major one of 7.6 magnitude, on Monday struck at a shallow depth in the Noto region of Ishikawa prefecture.
The JMA has officially named it the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake.
Centered around 30 km east-northeast of Wajima, the devastating quake registered a maximum intensity of 7, which would make it impossible for people to stand.
The earthquake, categorised as a seismic swarm, had a length of up to 150 km in the epicentre area, leading to unprecedented scale and shaking intensity, said a JMA expert, noting that such a temblor was last recorded in 2018 in Hokkaido.
In the aftermath of the quake, nearly 34,000 households, as of Wednesday morning, still suffered power outages in Ishikawa prefecture, where over 33,000 people have taken shelter, according to local authorities.
Reports of damages and several cases of people being buried or trapped under collapsed homes in the quake-hit areas kept coming in, according to municipal authorities.
The JMA has lifted all tsunami advisories along the Sea of Japan following the quake, but weather officials warned that strong aftershocks may occur in the week, especially over the next two to three days.