Japanese rescue teams struggled on Tuesday to reach isolated areas impacted by a devastating earthquake which struck the country’s western coast on New Year’s day, killing at least 48 people.
The 7.6 magnitude quake hit Japan’s Noto peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture, prompting the Japan Meteorological Agency to issue a major tsunami warning.
The area was also shaken by dozens of powerful aftershocks.
Rescue workers face race against time
Authorities dispatched a team of 3,000 army personnel, firefighters and police officers to help with the rescue operations.
“The search and rescue of those impacted by the quake is a battle against time,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said during an emergency meeting on Tuesday.
Rescuers were struggling to reach the northern tip of the Noto peninsula, due to widespread damage and raging fires, Kishida said.
The quake and its aftermath disrupted several rail services and flights into the area, closing Noto’s airport due to damage to its runway terminal and access roads.
Suzu, a coastal town near the quake’s epicenter, saw up to 1,000 houses destroyed, its mayor Masuhiro Izumiya said.
“The situation is catastrophic,” he added.
Destroyed houses and tsunami warnings
Tens of thousands of homes were destroyed by the quake, which brought down water, power and mobile services in some areas, local media reported.
“It’s not just that it’s a mess. The wall has collapsed, and you can see through to the next room. I don’t think we can live here anymore,” the Associated Press quoted Miki Kobayashi, an Ishikawa resident, as saying about her house.
Japanese authorities ordered some 100,000 people to evacuate their homes on Monday night. They were sent to sports halls and school gymnasiums, which usually serve as evacuation centers in emergencies.
Many were allowed to return on Tuesday, with tsunami warnings lifted.
rmt/nm (AP, Reuters)