Japan earthquake: Death toll rises to 64 as survivors face rain and landslides

Prime Minister sends 2,000 more military personnel as thousands of homes remain without power

Firefighters search the wreckage of a burned-out marketplace after a large fire caused by earthquakes in Wajima. AP
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The death toll from Monday's earthquake in western Japan rose to 64 on Wednesday, as the government doubled the number of rescue personnel sent to speed up rescue operations.

Two days after the quake, the full extent of the damage remains unclear, with Japanese authorities rushing aid to survivors who face freezing temperatures and heavy rain.

The rain forecast has raised fears of landslides, authorities said, in what could hinder efforts to free people trapped beneath the rubble.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the government will send 2,000 Self-Defence Force members to help with the rescue efforts, in addition to about 2,000 firefighters and 700 police already there.

“Now is a critical moment,” Mr Kishida told a press conference on Wednesday. “We are doing everything to save lives.”

At least 26 of the quake victims are seriously injured while 130 are in need of rescue, including some trapped beneath collapsed buildings, Mr Kishida said.

Hundreds of people lined up for freshwater at evacuation centres after the quake knocked out essential services.

About 35,000 homes in Ishikawa remained without power as of 6.40am, according to local utility Hokuriku Electric Power.

In Suzu, a town of about 5,000 households near the quake's epicentre, authorities were unable to respond to 72 calls for help, said its mayor Masuhiro Izumiya.

Mr Kishida said the government opened a sea route to deliver aid and some lorries were now able to reach some of the hardest-hit areas.

Smaller quakes continue to hit the peninsula. Firefighters searching for survivors in the rubble of a partially collapsed building were seen rushing out as an earthquake warning sounded before noon on Wednesday, according to video broadcast by public broadcaster NHK.

A commercial airliner caught fire on Tuesday at Tokyo’s Haneda airport after colliding on the runway with a coastguard aircraft packed with emergency supplies set to be delivered to quake victims.

Five of the six coastguard crew members on the aid flight were killed.

The accident has not had a logistical impact on rescue operations, Mr Kishida said.

Updated: January 04, 2024, 4:19 AM