The death toll from Japan’s New Year’s earthquake rose from 128 to 161 overnight, authorities said Monday, as snow hampered aid efforts.
The number of missing people fell to 103 from 195, according to authorities in the central region of Ishikawa, which was hit by the 7.5 magnitude earthquake. The shock wave toppled houses, sparked massive fires and tsunami waves more than a meter high. Thousands of rescuers have been mobilized across Japan, their work complicated by the earthquake’s damaged roads and about 1,000 landslides.
For the past two days, snow has covered the area, making work more difficult. Against all odds, a woman in her 90s survived five days under the rubble of a collapsed building in the city of Suzu on the rugged Noto Peninsula before being rescued on Saturday.
“Hold on tight!” » Rescuers are heard calling for the woman, in police photos of the rain scene published by local media. “Everything will be fine!” they shouted. “Goodbye!”
Not everyone is so lucky. In Anamizu town, a 52-year-old man whose 21-year-old son died and his in-laws waited for the news of his wife, three other children and other family members.
“I want them to live. It’s unimaginable that I can be alone,” he told NHK.
The cold weather also poses risks and worsening living conditions for more than 28,800 people in 404 government shelters. Continued rains have increased the risk of further landslides, with the heavy snowfall likely to cause many buildings to collapse under its weight, the regional government has warned.
At least 2,000 people in several rural villages have been isolated as roads have been destroyed, and some of the nearly 1,000 have been blocked by landslides and aid vehicles. This means that emergency services are unable to reach areas with water and power outages.
About 20,700 households in Ishikawa Prefecture were still without power on Sunday. More than 66,100 houses are without water.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in an interview with NHK on Sunday, “The first priority is to rescue people from the ruins and reach remote villages. The army sent a small force to every remote area on foot, he said.
The government also provided police and fire helicopters to reach them, Kishida added. Japan experiences hundreds of earthquakes every year, although most of them are not damaged due to the strong building structure that has existed there for more than 40 years.
But many of the structures are old, especially in older rural towns like Noto. The country was rocked by the 2011 earthquake, which triggered a tsunami, left about 18,500 people dead or missing and caused the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power plant.