Earthquake in Japan | The death toll rises to 126, the weather complicates the search

(Shiromaru) Rescue services continued Saturday to tirelessly search through the rubble of the devastating earthquake that shook central Japan on New Year’s Eve and killed at least 126 people according to a new count, with winter weather conditions complicating operations.

According to a new count announced by local authorities, 516 people were also injured and around 210 remain missing. But hopes of finding survivors almost five days after the disaster are dwindling.

The 7.5 magnitude earthquake that occurred on the afternoon of 1er January in the Noto Peninsula devastated this narrow strip of land about a hundred kilometers long which juts into the Sea of ​​Japan, causing landslides and collapsing buildings and roads.

The tremor, felt as far away as Tokyo, 300 km away, also triggered a tsunami, with waves more than a meter high.

The cold and bad weather complicate the task of rescuers and snow is expected for Sunday, while giant faults and a thousand landslides hamper traffic on the roads.

Two elderly women were rescued from the rubble of their homes on Thursday in Wajima, but since then there has been little cause for celebration.


A woman checks the damage to her house in Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture, January 6.

Hit by the tsunami of 1er January, Shiromaru, one of the hamlets dotting the coves of the peninsula, is nothing more than a pile of debris of wood, metal and plastic.

“The tsunami came from Shiromaru Cove via the river, then crossed the street,” Toshio Sakashita, 69, told AFP, who estimates that his house was submerged by around 2.5 m of water .

“We can no longer live in our house,” says Yukio Teraoka, 82, who is trying with his wife to shovel away the heavy, soggy sand carried into their home by the waves.

Isolated villages

“We sincerely pray for the repose of the souls of those who died,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on social media. He described the earthquake and its aftershocks as “the most serious disaster” in Reiwa, the Japanese era that opened in 2019 with the accession to the throne of Japanese Emperor Naruhito.

At another emergency cabinet meeting, he asked ministers to “urgently and promptly” repair roads.

Several countries, including the United States and France, have offered help and many have offered their condolences, including China and North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong-un expressed his “deep compassion” according to the agency. KCNA.

More than 30,000 people were refugees on Saturday in 366 government shelters, according to the Ishikawa department where the Noto peninsula is located, in often precarious conditions, particularly in the most difficult to access areas.

“I don’t think we received equipment or food in substantial quantities,” Takushi Sakashita, 59, living in the village of Noto at the tip of the peninsula, told AFP.

“We are doing our best to carry out rescue operations in isolated villages (…). However, the reality is that their isolation has not been resolved as much as we would like,” Hiroshi Hase, the governor of Ishikawa, admitted on Friday.

Nearly 25,000 homes also remained without electricity and more than 70,000 without water on Saturday morning in this department and two others located further north.


Masatoshi Nakamae uses a rope to reach a damaged road in Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture, on January 6.

Avoid the influx

To avoid hindering relief operations and the delivery of food, local authorities have called on people outside the Noto peninsula, usually a tourist destination, to avoid going there for “non-essential and non-urgent travel.” “.

They also asked those who would like to volunteer for the clearing operations to wait until the end of the three-day weekend – this Monday being a public holiday in Japan – due to the lack of organization to be able to welcome and direct them.

Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan is one of the countries with the most frequent earthquakes.

The archipelago is haunted by the memory of the terrible 9.0 magnitude earthquake followed by a giant tsunami in March 2011 on its northeastern coasts, a disaster which left some 20,000 dead and missing.

This disaster also led to the Fukushima nuclear accident, the most serious since Chernobyl in 1986.


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