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Japan quake: Rescuers rush to reach survivors

At least 48 people were killed after a powerful earthquake hit Japan on New Year’s Day, with rescue teams struggling on Tuesday to reach isolated areas where buildings had been toppled, roads wrecked and power cut to tens of thousands of homes.

The quake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.6 struck on Monday afternoon, prompting people in coastal areas to flee to higher ground as tsunami waves hit Japan’s western seaboard, sweeping cars and houses into the water.

A magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck in Ishikawa prefecture in central Japan on Monday afternoon, triggering tsunami warnings for regions along the western coast.

A 3,000-strong rescue crew of army personnel, firefighters and police officers have been sent to the quake site on the Noto peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture.

“The search and rescue of those impacted by the quake is a battle against time,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said during an emergency meeting on Tuesday, donning a blue outfit commonly worn by officials during disaster relief operations.

Kishida said rescuers were finding it very difficult to access the northern tip of the Noto peninsula where helicopter surveys had discovered many fires and widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure. There are around 120 cases of people awaiting rescue, his government spokesperson said.

Many rail services and flights into the area have been suspended. More than 500 people were stranded at Noto’s airport which has closed due to cracks in its runway and access road and damage to its terminal building.

In Suzu, a coastal town of just over 5,000 households near the quake’s epicentre, up to 1,000 houses may have been destroyed, according to its mayor Masuhiro Izumiya.

“The situation is catastrophic,” he said.

Authorities have confirmed 48 fatalities, all in Ishikawa prefecture, making it Japan’s deadliest earthquake since at least 2016 when a 7.3 magnitude one struck in Kumamoto on the southern island of Japan, killing more than 220 people.

Many of those killed are in Wajima, a city on the remote northern tip of the Noto peninsula.

Scores more have been injured and authorities were battling blazes in several cities on Tuesday and hauling people from collapsed buildings.

“I’ve never experienced a quake that powerful,” said Wajima resident Shoichi Kobayashi, 71, who was at home having a celebratory New Year’s meal with his wife and son when the quake struck, sending furniture flying across the dining room.

“Even the aftershocks made it difficult to stand up straight,” he said, adding his family were sleeping in their car because they could not return to their badly damaged home.

Around 200 tremors have been detected since the quake first hit on Monday, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, which warned more strong shocks could hit in the coming days.

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Sydney Okafor

I am so passionate about this my profession as a broadcast journalist and voiceover artists and presently a reporter at TV360 Nigeria

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