Noto Peninsula Earthquake: No Single Second Should Be Wasted in Lifesaving Efforts

The death toll from earthquakes around the Noto Peninsula has been rising with the passage of time. Many people are still trapped in collapsed buildings, and the situation is urgent.

It is hoped that as many lives as possible will be saved through such measures as intensively deploying rescue workers.

More than 100 requests for the rescue of people trapped under collapsed houses have been received in the affected areas. At a meeting of the government’s emergency disaster response headquarters on Wednesday (Jan. 3), Prime Minister Fumio Kishida gave instructions to relevant ministries and agencies, saying: “We are in a race against time. I want you to do your utmost in lifesaving and rescue operations.”

It is said that the survival rate drops sharply after 72 hours from the occurrence of a disaster. The limit is approaching on the evening of Thursday (Jan. 4). It is raining and getting colder in the affected areas. It is hoped that the Self-Defense Forces, firefighters and the police will mobilize their full strength to rescue the afflicted people as soon as possible.

In Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture, where coastal areas were hit by tsunami, and in Wajima in the same prefecture, where massive fires broke out, houses have been severely damaged. Some areas have been isolated due to severed roads, and even confirming people’s whereabouts has made little or no progress.

The central government has increased the number of SDF personnel dispatched to the affected areas and is transporting heavy machinery and relief supplies. Disaster rescue dogs have also been deployed. The important thing is to open the roads that have been cut off. It is necessary to use sea routes to transport personnel and heavy machinery for more efficient operations.

The management of the health of evacuees must also be taken into consideration.

In the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake, there were a number of people who suffered health problems during evacuation. More than 200 people died from “causes related to the earthquake.” The figure was four times as many as those directly killed by the quake. In the case of the Noto Peninsula Earthquake, too, a support system must be put in place in anticipation of possible prolonged evacuation.

People who were supposed to spend the New Year period peacefully have suddenly lost their homes and have to worry about even water and food. The stress of aftershocks must also be great. In addition to securing water, food and heating appliances, it is necessary to pay attention to mental health care for evacuees.

At evacuation centers in areas where the water supply has been cut off, afflicted people tend to cut back on their hydration in order to reduce the number of times they need to use the restroom. However, there is the danger of dehydration occurring if they do not drink an appropriate amount of water.

Staying overnight in a car also requires caution. Remaining in the same posture for a long time can lead to death from “economy-class syndrome,” a condition in which blood clots form.

The central and local governments should thoroughly communicate the precautions to be taken during evacuation.

In response to the Noto earthquakes, leaders of foreign countries and regions have expressed their support one after another. Some have offered to send doctors and other medical personnel. With the help of such support, it is vital to take every possible measure to ensure the physical and mental safety of evacuees.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 4, 2024)