The year 2024 began in the worst possible way for Japan. At least 30 people were killed by a powerful earthquake which struck the Ishikawa prefecture on the west coast of the country in mid-afternoon on New Year’s day. The death toll is expected to rise considerably.
The quake registered 7.6 on the Richter scale, making it one of the most powerful in recent history. To give you some idea of the magnitude, it is a level that will knock you off your feet – I was unnerved enough by the swaying I felt in a Tokyo department store 180 miles away to hold on to a rail. Japan’s geospatial information authority has stated that the quake may have shifted land near the epicentre up to 1.3 meters to the west.
The extent of the damage caused by the main shock and the more than 140 tremors that have been detected since (with more expected) is becoming apparent with every passing hour. Half of the deaths have come in Wajima, a historic city in the Noto peninsula where fires have been raging since Monday’s quake. In the coastal town of Suzu, near the epicentre, it is estimated that up to 1,000 homes have been destroyed. Suzu’s mayor Masuhiro Izumiya has described the situation as ‘catastrophic’. To add to the horror, at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport five men on a Japan coast guard plane preparing to fly west and join the relief effort are believed to have died after a collision with a passenger plane this morning.
Power remains cut off to 33,000 households in Ishikawa while the Japanese broadcaster NHK has reported that most areas in the north Noto peninsula have no water. Adding to the misery the weather is bitterly cold.