Japan earthquake death toll surges, many still missing

The death toll in Japan's New Year's Day earthquake is rising. More than 100 people are still missing and the hope to find them alive in harsh weather conditions slowly fades.

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Rescue efforts ongoing in aftermath of Japan earthquake- Credit: Reuters

The New Year’s Day earthquake that struck Japan continues to devastate the heart of the country, with the recorded death toll rising from 55 to 161. This update follows a Sunday report that initially stated 120 deaths.

Additionally, an alarming number of 102 people are reported missing. Despite the valiant efforts of rescuers, progress is hindered by heavy rains, leading to concerns about potential landslides and building collapses triggered by snow.

Rescue efforts have successfully saved over 28,000 victims, who are now accommodated in shelters. However, challenges persist due to electricity shortages and a water crisis affecting citizens in the Noto Peninsula area.

According to a BBC report, the cities most severely affected by the earthquake are Wajima and Suzu, where the majority of recorded deaths in Japan are occurring.

Japanese media outlet NHK reports an ongoing threat for Japan, with 1,200 additional earth tremors experienced since January 1, 2024. In response, the government is mobilizing over 5,000 military officers to expedite rescue efforts.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida emphasized the government’s commitment, stating to NHK on Sunday, ‘The first priority has been to rescue people under the rubble and reach isolated communities. We have deployed various police and fire department helicopters, as well as small groups of troops on foot to reach these isolated areas.’

The 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck the Noto Peninsula on New Year’s Day 2024, causing widespread destruction and displacing many. Mayor Masuhiro Izumiya of Suzu estimates that as of Tuesday, January 2, 2024, approximately 90 percent of the town’s buildings have collapsed.

Unfortunately, Japan is no stranger to seismic events, having experienced earthquakes and tsunamis over the years. The last devastating earthquake occurred in 2011, resulting in about 18,500 recorded victims due to an induced tsunami.

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