Death Toll in Central Japan Quake Rises to 206

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Police, firefighters, and Self-Defense Forces searched in the cold rain Wednesday around the burned-out Asaichi Dori area in Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture.

Kanazawa, Ishikawa Pref. (Jiji Press)—The death toll in Ishikawa Prefecture from a huge earthquake that struck central Japan’s Noto Peninsula on New Year’s Day has risen to 206, the prefectural government said Wednesday.

Of the total, eight died of indirect causes related to the earthquake, including exhaustion and poor health during evacuation. As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, the number of people still unaccounted for stood at 52.

As some residents are believed to remain under collapsed houses, rescuers continued a large-scale search at the Asaichi Dori market, a tourist attraction in the Ishikawa city of Wajima, where many buildings burned down in the wake of the earthquake.

About 3,100 people in a total of 22 districts remain inaccessible. About 58,900 houses are without water. Some 14,800 houses have no power. Around 26,000 people are staying at stopgap municipal shelters.

The Japanese government plans to focus more on preventing deaths from indirect causes, rushing to move evacuees, especially elderly people, from stopgap shelters to more livable accommodation out of concern about deteriorating sanitary conditions.

“In order to prevent deaths from indirect causes, it’s an urgent task to ensure good living conditions at evacuation centers,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi told a press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Hayashi said that the central government will work with the Ishikawa prefectural government, which is accelerating efforts to relocate evacuees to more comfortable shelters.

On Tuesday, the deaths of six people in the Ishikawa city of Suzu were recognized as the first deaths from indirect causes related to the earthquake.

In the 2016 powerful earthquakes in Kumamoto Prefecture, southwestern Japan, about 80 pct of fatalities were deaths from indirect causes.

A central government official said that “how to prevent deaths from indirect causes is a challenge that lies ahead.”

The central government has started providing more financial aid for evacuees to move to shelters at hotels and inns, and is considering covering costs for them to travel to such places.