1704276156 Japan quake toll rises to 62 as rescuers struggle to

Japan quake toll rises to 62 as rescuers struggle to reach cut-off villages – Al Jazeera English

Heavy rain is forecast until Thursday, increasing the risk of landslides and further complicating relief efforts.

Japanese rescuers continue to search for survivors of Monday's earthquake in Ishikawa Prefecture, as authorities have warned that heavy rain, landslides and repeated aftershocks could hamper relief efforts.

The regional government announced on Wednesday that 62 deaths and more than 300 injuries had been confirmed, 20 of them seriously.

It warned that the death toll was likely to continue to rise.

The magnitude 7.6 quake struck off the Noto Peninsula on Monday afternoon, destroying homes in Suzu on the north coast and sparking fires that devastated parts of the nearby town of Wajima. Roads were also torn up, making search and rescue even more difficult.

According to the government, more than 31,800 people were in emergency shelters.

“More than 40 hours have passed since the disaster. We have received a lot of information about people in need of rescue and there are people waiting for help,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said after an emergency task force meeting.

“Rescue efforts are being undertaken by local authorities, police, fire and other emergency responders, while the number of emergency responders and rescue dogs is being increased.”

People seeking refuge in a greenhouse after the quake.  They sit on the floor.  They wear winter clothes and some have blankets around themPeople evacuated from their homes in Wajima seek shelter in a greenhouse [Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]A resident walks through the devastation in Wajima.  There are poles and cables on the other side of the street, and there is rubble everywhere.  There are a few buildings in the distanceFires have hit parts of Wajima, one of the worst-hit towns on the Noto Peninsula [Kyodo via Reuters]Kishida said the central government was trying to bring aid by ship to the worst-hit parts of the Noto Peninsula as roads were nearly impassable. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces also used helicopters to reach cut-off villages, Kyodo News Agency reported.

Complicating relief efforts, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said heavy rains were expected, which could increase the risk of landslides.

90 percent gone

In Suzu, Mayor Masuhiro Izumiya said that “there were almost no houses left standing.”

“About 90 percent of the houses [in the town] are completely or almost completely destroyed… the situation is really catastrophic,” he said, according to broadcaster TBS.

Nearly 34,000 households remained without power in Ishikawa Prefecture, according to the local utility.

Many cities had no running water.

The US Geological Survey measured the quake at a magnitude of 7.5, while the JMA put it at 7.6 and issued a severe tsunami warning that was later lifted.

According to the JMA, Monday's quake was one of more than 400 to hit the region through Wednesday morning.

Two Japanese soldiers try to get someone out of the upper floor of their destroyed house. Around 1,000 Japanese Self-Defense Force soldiers were deployed to support rescue efforts [Joint Staff Office of the Defence Ministry of Japan via Reuters]Japan is where four of the Earth's tectonic plates meet, making the country particularly vulnerable to earthquakes.

Hundreds of them occur each year, but most cause little or no damage.

Although the number of victims of Monday's quake continued to rise, the immediate public warnings relayed via radio and telephone and the rapid response of the public and authorities appeared to have limited some of the impact.

Toshitaka Katada, a professor specializing in disasters at the University of Tokyo, said people were prepared, evacuation plans were drawn up and emergency supplies were in stock.

“There is probably no people on earth more prepared for disasters than the Japanese,” he told The Associated Press.

The number of earthquakes in the Noto Peninsula region has increased steadily since 2018, according to a Japanese government report last year.

In 2011, northeastern Japan was hit by one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded. The magnitude 9.0 underwater earthquake triggered a massive tsunami that wiped out entire communities and caused disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. At least 18,500 people were killed.