Noto Peninsula Earthquake: Prioritize Life-Saving Efforts, Getting Help to Isolated Areas

Even five days after a massive earthquake hit the Noto Peninsula, there are still many areas that are blocked off due to severed roads, and rescue services and aid have been unable to reach them. The situation must be resolved quickly, making full use of air and marine routes as well.

Quake-related landslides and road subsidence have made it difficult for rescue teams to enter the affected areas by land, and the transportation of relief supplies has also been delayed. Also, tsunami damaged ports, making it difficult for ships to dock.

Some roads have been restored to allow large vehicles to pass through, but the safety and whereabouts of many people are still unknown. Many communities are still isolated, with a clear picture of the extent of the damage still yet to emerge.

The government is using Self-Defense Forces helicopters and hovercraft to deliver personnel and supplies. This approach should be expanded to quickly grasp the full extent of the damage and lead to more effective rescue operations. The use of drones must also be promoted.

In order to respond to rescue requests and the voices of evacuees seeking supplies, it is important to organize information and prioritize responses.

However, local government employees and others have also been affected by the disaster, and administrative functions have greatly declined. There is also a lack of manpower to procure water and food and distribute them to evacuation centers. The central government should take the role of a control tower and exercise its ability to coordinate the situation.

The government should urgently identify the status of the hundreds of people whose safety and whereabouts are still unknown. If this remains unclear, there will be confusion among frontline personnel about where to dispatch rescue teams. It is also important to release the names of those who are missing and carefully examine the information that is received.

Many local governments across Japan have staff with relevant experience, such as managing evacuation centers, through past disasters. Establishing a system for such personnel to enter affected areas to assist as a liaison and coordinate between local governments and evacuation centers should be promoted.

On Friday, the government held a meeting of the Noto Peninsula Earthquake emergency disaster headquarters. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that rescue efforts are still struggling in some areas, but he asks for tenacious efforts without giving up.

In some affected areas, power outages are continuing and telephone and internet connections are disrupted. Addressing these matters is essential for contacting family members and collecting information.

Telecommunications companies are urged to work to maintain their communication networks by such measures as enhancing power generation facilities.

The impact of damage to water supplies is also serious. In addition to the lack of drinking water, people are having difficulty, for example, using toilets and brushing their teeth. It is hoped these concerns can be alleviated by distributing drinking water and using water trucks to provide water.

Elderly people have difficulty carrying heavy containers of water by themselves. Paying attention to those who are vulnerable during a disaster must not be forgotten.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 6, 2024)