Japanese Rescuers Search for Survivors after Deadly Earthquake

    02 January 2024

    A series of powerful earthquakes in western Japan have left at least 55 people dead and damaged thousands of buildings, automobiles and boats.

    The first quake struck New Year's Day, registering 7.6 in magnitude, or strength. The shaking caused major damage across Ishikawa prefecture.

    Japanese media reports said the quake destroyed tens of thousands of homes and cut water, power and phone services in some areas.

    People walk past collapsed buildings following an earthquake in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. (Kyodo News via AP)
    People walk past collapsed buildings following an earthquake in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. (Kyodo News via AP)

    The mayor in the town of Suzu, near the quake's center, said up to 90 percent of homes may have been destroyed, Reuters news agency reported.

    The earthquake set off tsunami warnings along Japan's western coast. Officials ordered about 100,000 people to leave their homes Monday night. They were sent to schools and sports centers to take shelter. Many returned to their homes Tuesday after the warnings were lifted.

    Japan's Meteorological Agency said about 200 aftershocks had struck since the main quake and that more were expected in coming days.

    Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters the government had deployed teams that included military troops, police and local rescuers. "We have received reports that there are still many people waiting to be rescued under collapsed buildings," he said.

    Kishida added that saving lives is the top goal.

    Japan sits on the so-called Ring of Fire, a collection of volcanoes and fault lines found around the Pacific Basin. About 20 percent of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater happen in that area.

    Monday's earthquake was Japan's deadliest since 2016. Emergency teams battled fires in several cities, as rescuers searched for people trapped in wreckage.

    Shoichi Kobayashi lives in the city of Wajima. He told Reuters he was at home celebrating New Year's with his wife and son when the quake hit and sent furniture flying across the house. "I've never experienced a quake that powerful," Kobayashi said.

    In the city of Nanao, Fujiko Ueno said she was celebrating with about 20 people in her home when the earthquake struck. The quake caused walls to collapse onto a parked car. Ueno said no one in the group was injured. "It all happened in the blink of an eye," she said.

    Toshitaka Katada is a University of Tokyo professor who specializes in disasters. He told The Associated Press that people were better prepared for this event because the area had been hit by quakes in recent years. "There is probably no people on earth other than Japanese who are so disaster-ready," Katada said.

    Government officials said several nuclear centers in the area were operating normally. A 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused three reactors to melt down and release large amounts of radiation at the Fukushima nuclear power center in northeastern Japan.

    I'm Bryan Lynn.

    The Associated Press and Reuters reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    prefecture – n. any one of the areas into which some countries (such as Japan and France) are divided for local government

    tsunami – n. a series of large ocean waves

    furniture – n. objects such as chairs, tables and beds that are placed into rooms or buildings