Race Against Time: Japan's Rescue Teams Search for Survivors, 48 Dead So Far

About 500 people are stuck in the parking lot at Noto Airport in Japan, after the terminal building suffered extensive damage in yesterday's strong earthquake

by Sededin Dedovic
Race Against Time: Japan's Rescue Teams Search for Survivors, 48 Dead So Far
© Buddhika Weerasinghe / Getty Images

A powerful earthquake hit the east coast of Honshu, Japan's largest island, on January 1, killing at least 48 people. The epicenter of the earthquake, measuring more than seven degrees on the Richter scale, was near the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture.

Rescue teams are tirelessly searching for survivors amid the wreckage. Ishikawa Prefecture, especially the city of Wajima, suffered heavy destruction with around 200 buildings destroyed, leading to 48 confirmed deaths. Currently, 120 people are awaiting rescue, and there are still concerns about a higher death toll, given the difficulty of reaching citizens trapped in smaller towns with mostly wooden structures.

The Noto airport terminal building suffered heavy damage, leaving around 500 people stranded in the parking lot. Passengers are provided with food and blankets while they wait in buses and other vehicles. However, communications in the affected region remain disrupted, hampering rescue efforts.

The earthquake caused significant damage to the roads, with cracks up to 10 meters long on the runway. Superfast trains, which travel at speeds in excess of 300 kilometers per hour, will continue to operate, but the extent of road damage remains a challenge for all transport.

Nuclear power plants and luck in an accident

Although there are several nuclear power plants in the region, most of them have been offline since the devastating 2011 earthquake. The world's largest nuclear power plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, is currently inactive due to inspections.

However, officials report minimal damage to the operational Oi and Mihama facilities, assuring that radiation levels are within normal limits. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stressed the urgent need to assess the extensive damage, including landslides and collapsed houses, in Ishikawa Prefecture.

Relief efforts are underway to provide the affected areas with basic necessities such as drinking water, electricity, blankets, food and portable toilets. Noto Airport is expected to be closed until at least Thursday due to extensive road damage that is hampering repairs. As the situation develops, there are still fears that the number of victims could increase.