Ishikawa prefecture (Japan): A man stands next to a collapsed house on Wednesday, after a major 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck the Noto region of the prefecture on New Year’s Day.—AFP
Ishikawa prefecture (Japan): A man stands next to a collapsed house on Wednesday, after a major 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck the Noto region of the prefecture on New Year’s Day.—AFP

TOKYO: Japanese rescuers struggled with hea­vy rain, blocked roads and aftershocks on Wednesday following a powerful earthquake that killed at least 73 people and left tens of thousands without power or running water.

The Noto Peninsula was worst hit by the 7.6 magnitude quake on Jan 1, with port towns such as Wajima and Suzu resembling war zones with streets of mud, flattened houses and sunken boats.

The regional government confirmed 73 people are dead and nearly 400 injured, but the toll is expected to rise. More than 33,400 people were in shelters, and at least 200 buildings had collapsed.

Around 30,000 households were still without power in Ishikawa prefecture, the local utility said, and over 110,000 households left without running water.

Heavy rains were forecast in the quake-hit areas on Wednesday, raising fears of landslides in what could further hinder efforts to free many more trapped under rubble.

Battle against time

Survivors faced freezing rain, threat of landsli­des as authorities rushed to bring aid to survivors.

“It’s been over 40 hours since the initial quake. This is a battle against time, and I believe now is a crucial moment in that battle. We have received a lot of information about people in need of rescue and there are people waiting for help,” Japanese Pri­­­me Minister Fumio Ki­­s­­­hida said at a news confe­rence held after a national disaster response meeting.

Severed roads, dama­g­­ed infrastructure, and the remote location of the har­dest-hit areas have com­­­p­licated rescue effo­rts. The full extent of damage and casualties remains uncl­e­­ar two days after the qua­ke. The mayors of the har­dest-hit cities have deman­ded the government clear roads and deliver aid swiftly.

Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2024

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