Japan in 'battle against time' to rescue quake survivors

Japan in ‘battle against time’ to rescue New Year’s Day quake survivors

/ 10:10 AM January 02, 2024

Japan in 'battle against time' to rescue New Year's Day quake survivors

A collapsed building caused by an earthquake is seen in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan January 2, 2024, in this photo released by Kyodo. Kyodo via REUTERS

TOKYO — Japan on Tuesday struggled to assess the full extent of damage from an earthquake that struck its west coast, killing at least eight people, wrecking buildings and roads and knocking out power to swathes of homes in freezing temperatures.

The quake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.6 struck in the middle of the afternoon on Monday, prompting residents in some coastal areas to flee to higher ground as tsunami waves about 1 meter (3.3 ft) hit Japan’s western seaboard.


Thousands of army personnel, firefighters and police officers from across the country have been dispatched to the worst-hit area in the relatively remote Noto peninsula.


However, rescue efforts have been hindered by badly damaged and blocked roads and one of the area’s airports has been forced to close due to runway cracks.

Many rail services and flights into the area have also been suspended.

“The search and rescue of those impacted by the quake is a battle against time,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said during an emergency disaster meeting on Tuesday.

Kishida said rescuers were finding it very difficult to reach the northern tip of the Noto peninsula due to wrecked roads, and that helicopter surveys had discovered many fires and widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure.

Public broadcaster NHK said eight deaths had been reported in the hard-hit town of Wajima near the quake’s epicenter, while in nearby Suzu some doctors were unable to reach a hospital that was relying on a backup generator for power.

Japan in 'battle against time' to rescue New Year's Day quake survivors

Smoke rises from the destroyed site caused by an earthquake at a residential area in Suzu, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan January 2, 2024, in this photo released by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo via REUTERS

The national police said agency six people had been confirmed dead, and the fire and disaster management agency said 19 people were in a state of cardiac arrest.


More than 90 tremors have been detected since the quake first hit on Monday, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. The agency has warned more strong shocks could hit in coming days.

In Toyama city, around 100 km (60 miles) from the worst-hit area, some shelves in convenience stores were empty as the disaster disrupted the delivery of goods across the region.

President Joe Biden said in a statement the United States was ready to provide any necessary help to Japan after the earthquake.

“As close allies, the United States and Japan share a deep bond of friendship that unites our people. Our thoughts are with the Japanese people during this difficult time,” he said.

The Japanese government ordered more than 97,000 people to evacuate their homes on Monday night, sending them to sports halls and school gymnasiums, commonly used as evacuation centers in emergencies.

Many returned to their homes on Tuesday as authorities lifted tsunami warnings.

But around 33,000 households remained without power in Ishikawa prefecture early on Tuesday morning, according to Hokuriku Electric Power’s website. Most areas in the northern Noto peninsula also have no water supply, NHK reported.

The Imperial Household Agency said it would cancel Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako’s slated New Year appearance on Tuesday following the disaster.

Nuclear plants

The quake comes at a sensitive time for Japan’s nuclear industry, which has faced fierce opposition from some locals since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima. Whole towns were devastated in that disaster.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority said no irregularities were found at nuclear plants along the Sea of Japan, including five active reactors at Kansai Electric Power’s Ohi and Takahama plants in Fukui Prefecture.

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Hokuriku Electric’s Shika plant, the closest to the epicentre, had already halted its two reactors before the quake for regular inspections and saw no impact from the quake, the agency said.

Chip materials maker Kokusai Electric said it is investigating further after finding some damage at its factory in Toyama ahead of the planned resumption of operations on Thursday.

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TAGS: Earthquake, Japan, New Year, rescue

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