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At least 94 dead, 222 missing in Japanese quakes amid fears of escalating damage

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-01-05 09:40
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A woman, whose house was damaged by an earthquake carries her belongings as she heads to an evacuation centre, in Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, Jan 5, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

TOKYO - The death toll has risen to 94, with the number of people unaccounted for exceeding 200 in the central Japanese prefecture of Ishikawa four days after a series of earthquakes of up to 7.6 magnitude struck the prefecture and its vicinity, raising concerns of escalating damages as rescue and search efforts intensify.

A total of 222 people were reported missing in Ishikawa as of 2:00 pm local time on Friday and the missing individuals, with a significant number being elderly residents, are predominantly concentrated in the cities of Wajima and Suzu, according to local media.

On day five of the earthquake, the most-hit coastal city of Wajima still faces over 40 cases of people being buried and trapped under collapses.

Japan's Self-Defense Forces rescue personnel have now increased to about 5,000, conducting search and rescue operations mostly in Wajima and Suzu in collaboration with the police and fire departments.

As the cold weather is toughening situation for the affected areas, Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki announced that the government plans to allocate 47.4 billion yen (about 327.6 million US dollars) from the reserve fund for the fiscal year 2023 to enhance "push-type support" for victims of the quake, which allows for the immediate dispatch of supplies to the disaster-stricken areas without waiting for specific requests from local authorities.

At least 840 people are stranded in isolated communities across the Noto region, the latest data showed, while delivery of essential supplies to quake-stricken areas remains a challenge.

The region's infrastructure has suffered severe setbacks, with around 30,000 households facing power outages and 80,000 households in 13 cities and towns experiencing water supply disruptions.

While some 33,000 people have stayed at about 370 evacuation centers in Ishikawa, issues related to sanitation, including access to toilets, have also emerged as pressing concerns, local media reports showed.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called for the preparation and construction of an adequate number of temporary and publicly managed disaster housing.

He stressed ensuring the hygiene and living conditions in evacuation centers, maintaining the health of the affected residents, and initiating prompt measures for the disposal of disaster-related waste.

A series of strong earthquakes, with a major one of 7.6 magnitude, on Monday struck at a shallow depth in the Noto region of Ishikawa.

Centered around 30 km east-northeast of Wajima, the devastating quake registered a maximum intensity of 7.

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