Noto Disaster 1st Quake Killing Over 100 Since Kumamoto in 2016; Death toll reaches 128

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Rescue workers continue search operations in the snow in Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture, on Sunday afternoon.

The Jan. 1 Noto Peninsula Earthquake has become the first earthquake in the nation to claim more than 100 lives since the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake, which led to 276 deaths, with the death toll reaching 128 on Sunday, according to the Cabinet Office.

Search and rescue operations are continuing for those trapped in collapsed houses, and the number of victims is expected to rise further.

With snowfall forecast for Sunday, the conditions are becoming increasingly dire in the areas hit by the series of quakes, including one registering the maximum 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale.

Of the 128 confirmed dead as of Sunday, 69 were in Wajima; 38 in Suzu; 11 in Anamizu; five in Nanao; two each in Shika and Noto and one in Hakui, according to the Ishikawa prefectural government. It has not released the names of the victims or detailed causes of death.

According to the prefectural government, the safety of 210 people remained unconfirmed as of 2 p.m. Saturday. Separately, it has reported one missing person who may have been caught in a landslide.

A 13-year-old boy from Toyama died after being trapped under a collapsed house in Wajima. The first-year junior high school student was visiting his mother’s hometown with his family. In Shika, a 5-year-old boy died from burns sustained from a kettle that fell during the earthquake.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the Hokuriku region is expected to be hit by a strong cold air flow and heavy snowfall from Sunday to Monday.

In Ishikawa Prefecture, which was severely damaged by the calamity, rainfall that began Saturday changed to snow on Sunday.

The temperature dropped below 1 C in Wajima on Sunday morning. Extra caution is necessary for people in the disaster-hit areas to avoid health problems caused by the sudden drop in temperature.

The agency called for extreme caution for the increased risk of landslides because even a little rain can induce them in areas where the ground has loosened following the tremors and previous rainfall. There are also concerns that the snow may cause traffic disruptions and affect search and rescue operations.

Power and water supplies remain cut in many areas. A total of 23,200 households have no power in various municipalities such as Wajima, Suzu and Noto, while 66,407 households in Nanao, Wajima and Shika, among others, remain without water.

“The situation cannot be restored in three or four years,” Ishikawa Gov. Hiroshi Hase told reporters Saturday. “Now that we have to be prepared for a prolonged period of evacuation, we want to take relevant actions.”