Death toll rises as earthquake ravages Japan
Following a devastating New Year's Day earthquake in Japan, rescue teams are working tirelessly in isolated areas where the disaster left buildings in ruins, roads destroyed, and tens of thousands without power.
The 7.6 magnitude quake struck on Monday afternoon, claiming at least 30 lives. It forced coastal residents to higher ground as tsunami waves swept cars and houses into the sea.
The government has dispatched a 3,000-strong rescue force, including army personnel, firefighters, and police officers, to the Noto peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, during a Tuesday emergency meeting, emphasized the critical nature of the rescue missions. He noted significant challenges in accessing the peninsula's northern regions, where aerial surveys revealed extensive fire damage and structural collapses.
Transportation disruptions have complicated rescue efforts. Rail services and flights into the area are suspended, and Noto's airport is closed, with 500 people stranded in the parking lot.
In Suzu, a coastal town near the quake's epicenter, Mayor Masuhiro Izumiya estimates that up to 1,000 houses could be destroyed. He described the situation as "catastrophic." In Ishikawa prefecture, local authorities have confirmed 30 deaths, half of them in Wajima, another severely affected city.
Firefighters are tackling multiple blazes and conducting rescue operations for those trapped in debris, as reported by Japan's disaster management agency. The Japan Meteorological Agency has recorded over 140 aftershocks since Monday and warns of potential strong tremors ahead.
Nobuko Sugimori, 74, from Nanao city, recounted her terrifying experience. She struggled to stay upright as her home sustained major damage. Nearby, a car lay crushed under a fallen building, but miraculously, all 20 occupants inside at the time of the quake escaped unharmed.
World leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, have extended condolences and offers of assistance. The Japanese government ordered about 100,000 people to evacuate to emergency shelters, such as sports halls and schools. Although tsunami warnings have been lifted, many remain without power and water.
The earthquake has also reignited concerns about Japan's nuclear industry. The Nuclear Regulation Authority reported no irregularities at nuclear plants along the Sea of Japan. Hokuriku Electric's Shika plant, closest to the epicenter, experienced power outages and oil leaks but no radiation leakage.
Corporations like Sharp, Komatsu, and Toshiba are evaluating the impact on their facilities in the region. Kokusai Electric is inspecting its Toyama factory for damages before its scheduled reopening.