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Police officers conduct a search operation in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan Tuesday, January 9, 2024.

Central Japan quake death toll tops 200, over 100 unaccounted for

(Kyodo News) -- The death toll from a powerful New Year’s Day earthquake that struck Ishikawa Prefecture and surrounding areas in central Japan has surpassed 200 with over 100 still missing, as a large-scale search operation started at a severely hit area, local authorities said Tuesday.
Local police carried out the operation for several days, with around 100 personnel stationed around a gutted market in Wajima, where a major blaze broke out following the magnitude-7.6 quake.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 202 were confirmed dead with 102 unaccounted for, the prefectural government said.
With over 28,000 people still sheltering in evacuation centres in Ishikawa Prefecture, concerns about the spread of infectious diseases have risen following reports of around a dozen infections with the novel coronavirus at three locations in the town of Shika, they said.
At least 3,300 people, primarily in Wajima and the adjacent city of Suzu, are cut off due to severed roads and heavy snowfall, with the recovery of electricity, water supply, and other infrastructure still uncertain, they said.
While more than 250 elementary, junior high, and high schools in the prefecture began the new term on Tuesday, 86 schools, including those in Wajima and Suzu, could not start classes due to damaged facilities.
Defense Minister Minoru Kihara said Tuesday that the number of Self-Defense Forces personnel taking part in rescue operations had increased by around 200 to roughly 6,300.
At the Wajima market, around 200 buildings spanning some 48,000 square meters were destroyed in the fire that started on Jan. 1, according to the municipal government and firefighters.
There were many wooden buildings in the over 1,000-year-old morning market that was popular with tourists.
Deaths from the quake, which registered a maximum 7 on the country’s seismic intensity scale, were concentrated in Wajima and Suzu, while the number of people unaccounted for has fluctuated due to conflicting information.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet approved the allocation of 4.74 billion yen (US$33 million) from reserve funds in the fiscal 2023 budget to support the victims of the Noto Peninsula quake, including measures to help those affected to cope with the cold weather.
The government also plans to increase reserve funds earmarked in the draft budget for the fiscal year starting April from the current 500 billion yen, to fund disaster recovery efforts, according to Kishida.

(Latest Update January 10, 2024)

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