Earthquake in Japan kills more than 40 people and damaged roads make search for survivors difficult


According to authorities, half of the deaths were confirmed in the hard-hit town of Wajima, near the earthquake’s epicenter.

An aerial view shows collapsed houses, cars and roads caused by an earthquake in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, on January 2, 2024, in this photograph released by Kyodo. – Reuters
  • Thousands of people were sent to help, struggling to reach the worst affected areas.
  • Train services, ferries and flights to the Noto peninsula suspended.
  • Several world leaders, including Joe Biden, sent their condolences.

At least 30 people died after a strong 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck Japan on New Year’s Day, and rescuers on Tuesday struggled to reach remote locations where buildings had collapsed to search for possible survivors.

Monday’s mid-afternoon earthquake forced residents in some coastal areas to flee to higher ground as tsunami waves hit Japan’s western coast, sweeping some cars and houses into the sea.

Thousands of military, firefighters and police have been sent to the devastated Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, but rescue efforts are hampered by damaged roads and difficulty in assessing the full extent of the consequences.

A view of a car stuck in a crack in the road, following an earthquake, near Ujima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan, on January 2, 2024. – Reuters
A view of a car stuck in a crack in the road, following an earthquake, near Ujima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan, on January 2, 2024. – Reuters

Many train services, ferries and flights to the area have been suspended. Noto airport has closed due to damage to its runway, terminal and access roads, with 500 people stranded inside cars in its parking lot, according to Japan’s public broadcaster NHK.

“The search and rescue of those affected by the earthquake is a battle against time,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said during an emergency disaster meeting on Tuesday, adding that helicopter surveys had uncovered many fires and widespread damage in buildings and infrastructure.

Authorities in Ishikawa said they had confirmed 30 deaths from the quake so far, half of those deaths in the hard-hit town of Wajima near the quake’s epicenter, and the death toll is likely to rise. Reuters reported.

Firefighters have been battling fires in several cities and trying to free more people trapped in collapsed buildings, Japan’s fire and disaster management agency said.

In this photo published by Kyodo, a collapsed building caused by an earthquake is seen in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan, on January 2, 2024. – Reuters
In this photo published by Kyodo, a collapsed building caused by an earthquake is seen in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan, on January 2, 2024. – Reuters

More than 140 tremors have been detected since the first earthquake struck on Monday, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, which warned that more strong shaking could occur in the coming days.

One local said nearly 20 people were at home to celebrate the New Year when the earthquake hit, but miraculously they all escaped unharmed.

“It all happened in the blink of an eye,” he said.

Several world leaders sent messages of condolence to US President Joe Biden, saying in a statement that Washington was ready to provide any necessary help to Japan.

“Our thoughts are with the Japanese people during this difficult time,” he said.

The Japanese government evacuated about 100,000 people on Monday night, sending them to sports halls and school gymnasiums.

Many returned to their homes on Tuesday, but 33,000 homes remained without power in Ishikawa Prefecture after temperatures fell below zero.

Most northern areas of the Noto Peninsula also lack water supply, NHK reported.


Additional contributions from Reuters

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