Many Noto Peninsula Quake Victims Likely Crushed to Death; 161 People Confirmed Dead, Over 28,000 Living in Shelters

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Firefighters search for missing people as it snows in Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture, on Sunday.

Many of the victims of the Jan. 1 Noto Peninsula Earthquake are believed to have been crushed to death by collapsed houses, authorities are saying.

The death toll in Ishikawa Prefecture from the disaster reached 161 as of 9 a.m. Monday, according to the prefectural government. A series of quakes, the largest of which registered a maximum 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale, killed at least 70 people each in the prefectural cities of Wajima and Suzu. Eleven people died in the town of Anamizu, five in Nanao city, two each in the towns of Shika and Noto, and one in Hakui city.

One person has been reported as missing due to the tsunami in Suzu, while the safety of 103 people is unconfirmed because they cannot be reached.

A week has passed since the quake occurred on New Year’s Day, and more than 28,000 people are still living in shelters. They are expected to have to live as evacuees for a prolonged period, so support measures such as building temporary housing are an urgent task for the government.

The prefecture has not released the quake victims’ names nor the causes of their deaths. The prefecture has received many calls for help related to collapsed houses and has not been able to respond to all of them.

A man in his 50s was found dead in a collapsed house in Wajima from which a woman in her 80s was rescued on Thursday evening. The two-story house’s first floor was crushed.

“Perhaps more than 90% of the victims in Wajima were crushed to death,” said a police source in the disaster-hit area.

At the site of a quake-triggered landslide in Anamizu that killed five people and destroyed three houses, nine other people were newly found dead out of 11 people who are also believed to have been caught up in the disaster.

Police are trying to identify the nine, seven of whom are apparently family members of Naoyuki Teramoto, 52, an employee of a home for disabled people in Kanazawa.

As part of rescue activities on Sunday, the Self Defense Force mobilized nine ships and about 40 helicopters and other aircraft, together with about 5,900 SDF members transporting aid supplies and sick people.

About 1,200 members from 24 prefectural police’s regional emergency rescue squads have also been sent to Ishikawa Prefecture to join search efforts and rescue activities.

As of Sunday, 28,821 people were living in shelters, including 11,932 in Wajima, 6,869 in Suzu and 3,833 in Noto. A total of 66,117 households in Nanao, Wajima, Shika and other municipalities were still without running water.

According to the prefecture, at least 2,318 people were isolated in Wajima, Suzu, Anamizu and Noto.