As of January 4, Japanese authorities report 78 dead and 51 missing as rescuers and emergency workers continue to shift through the rubble caused by the 7.5-magnitude earthquake in Western Japan. Over 330 people have been injured, with at least 25 in critical condition. About 35,000 people have been displaced and are staying at government shelters.
Race Against the Clock:
With each passing hour, the chance of survival diminishes for those missing, increasing the pressure on rescuers. “This is a race against time, and I feel that we are at a critical moment,” stated Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. 4,600 soldiers of the Japanese Self Defense Forces have been deployed to assist in search and rescue efforts as the temperatures hover slightly above freezing.
Rain has made these efforts more dangerous, as the risk of landslides increases during rainy conditions following an earthquake. In many areas, people still don’t have access to electricity and water, while in others, access to roads leading to hospitals has been blocked off by debris. Snow is also possible in some of the affected areas overnight, as forecasts see temperatures falling to as low as 2 degrees Celsius (35 degrees Fahrenheit).
International, Chinese, and US Assistance:
US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel said Thursday that the Japanese government has accepted aid efforts in the form of emergency supplies and support from US troops stationed in Japan.
“When Japan is in a time of need, we’re here to support them, both civilian with resources, military with logistics,” he told Kyodo News. “We’ve offered it (assistance), it’s been accepted. And this is a down-payment, if they need more, they know they can always call.”
“Without getting in the way…we’re going to do whatever Japan says to move the resources wherever…This is a Japan-led effort. We’re in an assistant, secondary role,” he added.
US President Joe Biden issued a statement following the disaster, saying that the United States “stands ready to provide any necessary assistance for the Japanese people.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin stated that they are willing and able to provide assistance to the affected areas of Japan. He also announced that no Chinese citizens were harmed by the quake.
The Japanese government has turned down several other international offers to help, likely due to an inability to accommodate a widespread effort in such a geographically complicated region.
The New Year’s Day Quake:
The quake occurred near Noto in Ishikawa Prefecture on the west coast of Honshu at a magnitude of 7.5, according to the US Geological Survey, at 4:10 p.m. local time on January 1, 2024. Based on the intensity of the shaking, the USGS estimates indicate property and economic damages could potentially exceed $1 billion.
Tsunami warnings were immediately issued to much of Western Japan. Shortly after the quake, several tsunamis were reported hitting the coast at heights of about 1.2 meters (4 feet). Dozens of aftershocks were recorded, with authorities saying to expect further quakes. All tsunami warnings have been lifted as of the publication of this article.
With Japanese authorities confirming 78 deaths so far, this quake is considered the deadliest in Japan since at least 2016.
Government officials report no major problems at any nearby nuclear plants following the earthquake. The Shika nuclear plant in Ishikawa suffered a partial electricity failure, but backup power kicked in, ensuring the critical cooling process continued.