SUZU, JAPAN: The death toll from Japan’s earthquake during New Year’s Day has risen to 161, with 103 people still missing, according to authorities on Monday (8 Jan) in the central Ishikawa region.
The 7.5-magnitude quake has left communities grappling with the aftermath of collapsed buildings, a major fire, and tsunami waves over a meter high.
Rescue efforts have been hampered by adverse weather conditions, with heavy snowfall blanketing the affected region, complicating the work of thousands of rescuers who have been deployed from across Japan.
Roads severed by the earthquake and an estimated 1,000 landslides further hindered access to affected areas.
Despite the challenges, tales of resilience and survival have emerged. In the city of Suzu on the hard-hit Noto Peninsula, a woman in her 90s miraculously survived five days under the wreckage of a collapsed house before being rescued on Saturday.
Footage broadcast nationwide depicted rescue workers in helmets obstructing the view of the area with blue plastic, concealing the woman from sight.
Despite the woman’s responsiveness, she was suspected to be experiencing hypothermia.
NHK, the public broadcaster, reported that she was transported to the hospital for treatment and responded coherently to inquiries.
In police footage released by local media from the scene, rescuers could be heard encouraging the woman, exclaiming, “Hang in there!” amidst the falling rain. Their reassuring shouts continued, “You’re gonna be OK! Stay positive!”
As the region faces continuous rain and the risk of additional landslides, more than 28,800 people find themselves in government shelters, while around 20,700 households in the broader Ishikawa region remain without electricity, and over 66,100 households lack access to water.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida emphasized the immediate priorities, stating, “The first priority has been to rescue people under the rubble and to reach isolated communities.”
The military has dispatched small groups of troops on foot to isolated areas, with police and fire department helicopters aiding in the distribution of relief materials.
While Japan is accustomed to frequent earthquakes, the impact of this recent disaster underscores vulnerabilities, particularly in aging rural communities where many structures lack modern seismic resilience.
The haunting memory of the 2011 monster quake and tsunami that claimed over 18,500 lives and triggered a nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima plant continues to cast a shadow over the nation’s collective consciousness.
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