Japan quake survivors rescued from rubble as death toll rises

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Rescuers race against time to find more survivors

Rescuers in Japan are working tirelessly to find more survivors of the powerful earthquake that struck the country’s west coast on New Year’s Day, killing at least 94 people and injuring hundreds more. The 7.6 magnitude quake, which was felt across a wide area of Japan, caused widespread damage to buildings, roads, and infrastructure, and triggered tsunami warnings along the Sea of Japan.

The epicenter of the quake was near the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, where many homes collapsed or caught fire. Some of the worst-hit areas were the coastal cities of Wajima and Suzu, where officials said up to 90% of the houses were destroyed or severely damaged. Many people were trapped under the rubble, waiting for help to arrive.

The Japanese government has mobilized thousands of troops, firefighters, police officers, and volunteers to join the rescue efforts, which have been hampered by blocked roads, landslides, and aftershocks. Helicopters and boats have been used to reach the isolated areas and deliver supplies, such as food, water, and blankets, to the evacuees.

The Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, who visited the disaster zone on Wednesday, said the search and rescue operation was a “battle against time” and vowed to do everything possible to save lives. He also announced a 10 billion yen ($85 million) emergency fund to support the recovery efforts.

Survivors share their stories of horror and hope

Some of the survivors of the quake have shared their stories of horror and hope, describing how they escaped from the collapsing buildings, fled to higher ground, or waited for rescue.

Toshio Iwahama, an 82-year-old resident of Nanao, said his wooden home partially collapsed during the quake, trapping him and his wife inside. He said he managed to crawl out of the debris and call for help, but his wife was still buried under the rubble. He said he prayed for her survival until the rescuers arrived and pulled her out. “She was unconscious, but she was alive. I was so relieved,” he said.

Japan quake survivors

Emma Ward, a 41-year-old Briton who was on a skiing holiday in the resort village of Hakuba, said the quake hit “without warning” while she was in a cafe with her friends. She said they took shelter under a table, but the tremors were so strong that they decided to run out of the building. “The worst part during the earthquake was not knowing how intense it was going to become. It’s a very frightening experience,” she said.

Andy Clark, a 38-year-old from the West Midlands in the UK, said he was visiting his wife’s family in Toyama when the quake struck. He said he was on the coast and felt the ground shaking violently. “I grabbed the sea wall to stay upright. It was a scary afternoon and evening,” he said. He said they ran to a school roof to look at the sea level, fearing a tsunami. He said his phone received an emergency alert, warning him of the possible giant waves. “It is a scary sound when it is very real,” he said.

Japan braces for more aftershocks and recovery challenges

Japan, which is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a seismically active zone, is no stranger to earthquakes and tsunamis. The country has experienced several devastating quakes in its history, including the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 18,000 people and triggered a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The latest quake has reminded many Japanese of the 2011 disaster and the challenges of recovery. The Japan Meteorological Agency has warned that more aftershocks, some of them strong, could occur in the coming days and weeks, and urged people to stay alert and prepared. The agency has also lifted all the tsunami advisories that were issued after the quake, but advised people to avoid the coast and check for updates.

The government has faced some criticism for its slow response to the disaster, especially in providing information and assistance to the affected areas. Some residents have complained of a lack of communication, coordination, and resources, and expressed frustration over the delays in rescue and relief operations.

The government has also faced pressure from the international community, especially the US, to provide more transparency and accountability on the safety of its nuclear plants, which have been under scrutiny since the 2011 Fukushima crisis. The US President, Joe Biden, has offered his condolences and support to Japan, and said the US stands ready to provide any necessary assistance.

The quake has also raised concerns over the impact on the economy, tourism, and the environment, as well as the mental health and well-being of the survivors and the evacuees. The government has pledged to provide financial and psychological support to the affected people, and to rebuild the damaged areas as soon as possible.

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