Japan quake: Rescuers rush to reach survivors

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  • At least 48 dead after 7.6 magnitude quake on Jan 1
  • Major damage to roads, houses on west coast of main island
  • Thousands of rescuers struggling to reach worst-hit areas
  • Resident tells of miraculous escape from toppled home

WAJIMA, Japan, Jan 2 (Reuters) – At least 48 people were killed after a powerful earthquake hit Japan on New Year’s Day, with rescue teams struggling on Tuesday to reach isolated areas where buildings had been toppled, roads wrecked and power cut to tens of thousands of homes.

The quake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.6 struck on Monday afternoon, prompting people in coastal areas to flee to higher ground as tsunami waves hit Japan’s western seaboard, sweeping cars and houses into the water.

A 3,000-strong rescue crew of army personnel, firefighters and police officers have been sent to the quake site on the Noto peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture.

“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, donning a blue outfit commonly worn by officials during disaster relief operations.

Kishida said rescuers were finding it very difficult to access the northern tip of the Noto peninsula where helicopter surveys had discovered many fires and widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure. There are around 120 cases of people awaiting rescue, his government spokesperson said.

Japan quake: Rescuers rush to reach survivors – Euractiv

Many rail services and flights into the area have been suspended. More than 500 people were stranded at Noto’s airport which has closed due to cracks in its runway and access road and damage to its terminal building.

In Suzu, a coastal town of just over 5,000 households near the quake’s epicentre, up to 1,000 houses may have been destroyed, according to its mayor Masuhiro Izumiya.

“The situation is catastrophic,” he said.

Authorities have confirmed 48 fatalities, all in Ishikawa prefecture, making it Japan’s deadliest earthquake since at least 2016 when a 7.3 magnitude one struck in Kumamoto on the southern island of Japan, killing more than 220 people.

Many of those killed are in Wajima, a city on the remote northern tip of the Noto peninsula.

Scores more have been injured and authorities were battling blazes in several cities on Tuesday and hauling people from collapsed buildings.

“I’ve never experienced a quake that powerful,” said Wajima resident Shoichi Kobayashi, 71, who was at home having a celebratory New Year’s meal with his wife and son when the quake struck, sending furniture flying across the dining room.

“Even the aftershocks made it difficult to stand up straight,” he said, adding his family were sleeping in their car because they could not return to their badly damaged home.

Around 200 tremors have been detected since the quake first hit on Monday, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, which warned more strong shocks could hit in the coming days.

1. What Were the Immediate Impacts of the 7.6 Magnitude Quake on January 1?

The seismic tremors that struck Japan on New Year’s Day left a trail of destruction, claiming at least 48 lives and causing major damage to infrastructure. The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 7.6, triggered tsunami waves along the western seaboard, compelling residents to seek higher ground. Rescue efforts involving a 3,000-strong crew faced challenges reaching isolated areas on the Noto peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture, where buildings had collapsed, roads were destroyed, and tens of thousands of homes lost power.

Reports spoke of a catastrophic situation in Suzu, a coastal town near the quake’s epicenter, where up to 1,000 houses may have been obliterated. The challenges of rescue operations were exacerbated by fires and widespread damage discovered in the northern tip of the Noto peninsula, making it the deadliest earthquake in Japan since 2016.

Miraculous Escapes and Urgent Evacuations

Residents shared harrowing tales of survival, with miraculous escapes from toppled homes. The Japanese government issued evacuation orders for approximately 100,000 people, leading to the utilization of sports halls and school gymnasiums as emergency shelters. Although nearly half of those evacuated had returned home after the tsunami warnings were lifted, over 33,000 households remained without power, grappling with freezing temperatures.

2. How Did Residents Describe the Intensity of the Quake?

Shoichi Kobayashi, a resident of Wajima, one of the worst-hit areas, vividly described the quake’s power. While having a New Year’s meal with his family, their home was violently shaken, and furniture was sent flying across the room. Even the aftershocks made it difficult to stand, compelling the family to seek refuge in their car due to extensive damage to their residence. Such firsthand accounts underscore the intense and unprecedented nature of the seismic event.

Tales of Terrifying Tremors

Fujiko Ueno, a 73-year-old resident of Nanao city, shared her experience of nearly 20 people gathering in her house for a New Year celebration when the quake struck. The walls splintered, crashing down on a parked car, yet miraculously, everyone emerged uninjured. The suddenness and ferocity of the quake left residents stunned, emphasizing the need for swift and effective rescue efforts.

3. What Challenges Did Rescue Teams Face in Accessing Affected Areas?

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida emphasized the urgency of the search and rescue operations, characterizing it as a battle against time. The Noto peninsula’s northern tip proved particularly challenging, with rescuers finding it difficult to access due to extensive damage. Helicopter surveys revealed numerous fires and widespread damage, with around 120 cases of people awaiting rescue.

Suspended Services and Stranded Individuals

Rail services and flights to the affected areas were suspended, leaving more than 500 people stranded at Noto’s airport. The runway and access road suffered damage, exacerbating the logistical challenges faced by the rescue teams. The situation was further complicated by the suspension of services and the closure of vital infrastructure, hindering the timely delivery of aid and support.

4. How Did Japan’s Nuclear Industry Respond to the Quake?

The earthquake occurred at a sensitive time for Japan’s nuclear industry, prompting concerns given the historical backdrop of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima. Despite the challenges, the Nuclear Regulation Authority reported no irregularities at nuclear plants along the Sea of Japan. This includes the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, the world’s largest, which recently had its operational ban lifted.

Impacts on Semiconductor Production and Infrastructure

Toshiba and its subsidiary, Kaga Toshiba Electronics, halted semiconductor production to assess the quake’s impact. Meanwhile, chip equipment maker Kokusai Electric found damage at its factory in Toyama, leading to investigations before planned operations’ resumption. These developments highlight the ripple effects of the quake on critical industries, raising concerns about potential disruptions in the supply chain.

5. How Did World Leaders React to the Devastating Quake?

The global community expressed solidarity with Japan in the wake of the earthquake. Several world leaders, including President Joe Biden, conveyed condolence messages and offered assistance. President Biden stated that the United States was ready to provide any necessary help to Japan, showcasing the international response to natural disasters and the importance of collaborative efforts in times of crisis.

International Support and Cooperation

The outpouring of support from world leaders signifies the interconnectedness of nations in times of crisis. Such gestures not only convey empathy but also emphasize the need for collaborative efforts in disaster response and recovery. The earthquake’s impact transcends national borders, underscoring the shared responsibility of the global community in addressing humanitarian challenges.

6. What Measures Were Taken to Safeguard the Affected Population?

In response to the earthquake, the Japanese government swiftly ordered around 100,000 people to evacuate their homes, utilizing established evacuation centers. While nearly half of the evacuees returned home after the tsunami warnings were lifted, challenges persisted, with tens of thousands of households grappling with power outages, freezing temperatures, and water supply disruptions.

Evacuation Strategies and Challenges

The evacuation strategies implemented by the government highlight the importance of proactive measures in the face of natural disasters. However, the challenges of power outages and infrastructure damage underscore the complexities involved in ensuring the well-being of affected populations during emergencies. The aftermath of the quake emphasizes the need for robust disaster preparedness and response mechanisms.

7. How Did Japan’s Defence Forces Contribute to Rescue Efforts?

Japan’s defence minister reported the involvement of 1,000 army personnel in rescue operations, with the potential deployment of 10,000 personnel. The coordination between various branches of the military and civil authorities showcases the comprehensive approach taken to address the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.

Collaborative Efforts and Mobilization

The coordinated efforts of the defence forces underscore the importance of a multi-faceted and collaborative approach to disaster response. The sheer scale of the rescue operation necessitates the involvement of different agencies, and the mobilization of military personnel highlights the synergy required to address the diverse challenges posed by natural disasters.

8. What Impact Did the Quake Have on Nuclear Plants in the Region?

The earthquake raised concerns about the safety of nuclear plants in the region, given Japan’s history of nuclear disasters. Fortunately, the Nuclear Regulation Authority reported no irregularities at nuclear plants along the Sea of Japan. This includes the Kansai Electric Power’s Ohi and Takahama plants, which have five active reactors.

Nuclear Safety and Public Concerns

The absence of irregularities at nuclear plants alleviates immediate concerns about the potential for nuclear accidents following the earthquake. However, the incident highlights the delicate balance between energy needs and ensuring the safety of nuclear facilities, especially in a seismically active region.

9. How Did Residents Cope With the Aftermath of the Quake?

Residents in affected areas faced significant challenges in the aftermath of the quake. With homes destroyed and infrastructure damaged, many were forced to seek refuge in emergency shelters. The harsh winter conditions, with temperatures dropping below freezing, added to the difficulties faced by those without power and water supply.

Resilience and Community Support

The resilience of affected communities and the support provided by emergency shelters and relief efforts demonstrate the human capacity to overcome adversity. The collective response to immediate challenges showcases the strength of community bonds and the crucial role of humanitarian aid in facilitating recovery.

10. What Are the Long-term Implications of the Quake on Local Industries?

The earthquake’s impact extended beyond immediate human and infrastructure concerns, influencing local industries. Toshiba’s subsidiary, Kaga Toshiba Electronics, suspended semiconductor production to assess the quake’s impact, reflecting the potential disruptions in manufacturing and supply chains.

Economic Repercussions and Industry Resilience

The suspension of semiconductor production and damage to manufacturing facilities raise questions about the economic repercussions for local industries. The incident highlights the need for industry resilience and contingency planning in regions prone to seismic activities. The long-term effects on local economies emphasize the importance of rebuilding efforts and support for affected businesses.


Fujiko Ueno, a 73-year-old resident of Nanao city in Ishikawa, said nearly 20 people were in her house for a New Year celebration when the quake struck, splintering the walls which came crashing down on a parked car.

Aftermath of an earthquake in Nanao

[1/11]A damaged car stands near a collapsed house, following an earthquake, in Nanao, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan January 2, 2024, REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon Acquire Licensing Rights

Miraculously, everyone emerged uninjured.

“It all happened in the blink of an eye” she said, standing next to the crushed car on a road littered with debris and mud that oozed out from cracks in its surface.

Several world leaders sent condolence messages with President Joe Biden saying in a statement the United States was ready to provide any necessary help to Japan.

The Japanese government ordered around 100,000 people to evacuate their homes on Monday night, sending them to sports halls and school gymnasiums, commonly used as evacuation centres in emergencies.

Almost half of those evacuated had returned to their homes on Tuesday after authorities lifted tsunami warnings.

But around 33,000 households remained without power in Ishikawa prefecture after a night when temperatures dropped below freezing, according to Hokuriku Electric Power’s (9505.T) website. Nearly 20,000 homes have no water supply.

The Imperial Household Agency said it would cancel Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako’s slated New Year appearance on Tuesday following the disaster. Kishida postponed his New Year visit to the Ise Shrine scheduled for Thursday.

Japan’s defence minister told reporters on Tuesday that 1,000 army personnel are involved in rescue efforts and that 10,000 could eventually be deployed.


The quake also comes at a sensitive time for Japan’s nuclear industry, which has faced fierce opposition from locals since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima. Whole towns were devastated in that disaster and nearly 20,000 people perished.

Japan last week lifted an operational ban imposed on the world’s biggest nuclear plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, which has been offline since the 2011 tsunami.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority said no irregularities were found at nuclear plants along the Sea of Japan, including five active reactors at Kansai Electric Power’s (9503.T) Ohi and Takahama plants in Fukui Prefecture.

Hokuriku Electric’s Shika plant, the closest to the epicentre, has also been idle since 2011. The company said there had been power outages and oil leaks following Monday’s jolt but no radiation leakage.

The company had previously said it hoped to restart the reactor in 2026.

Toshiba said its local subsidiary Kaga Toshiba Electronics has stopped semiconductor production at its plant in Ishikawa to gauge the quake’s impact on its facilities.

Chip equipment maker Kokusai Electric (6525.T) said it had found damage at its factory in Toyama and was investigating further ahead of the planned resumption of operations on Thursday.

Talha Quraishi
Talha Quraishihttps://hataftech.com
I am Talha Quraishi, an AI and tech enthusiast, and the founder and CEO of Hataf Tech. As a blog and tech news writer, I share insights on the latest advancements in technology, aiming to innovate and inspire in the tech landscape.