Kyodo News via Associated Press A large fire devastated part of the town center of Wajima, a small historic port in the north of the Noto Peninsula. A commercial building also collapsed due to the earthquake.
Japan is engaged on Tuesday in a race against time to find survivors after an earthquake which devastated the Noto peninsula, in the center, on Monday and caused the death of 48 people, according to a provisional report .
“The total number of deaths has reached 48,” an official from the Ishikawa department, of which the Noto peninsula is part, told AFP on Tuesday. A previous report reported 30 deaths.
“It was such a powerful shock,” Tsugumasa Mihara, 73, told AFP as he stood in line with hundreds of other residents of Shika, a small town on the peninsula of Noto, to collect drinking water at the town hall.
“What a terrible way to start the year! », he added.
Occurring Monday at 4:10 p.m., this earthquake, the strongest among more than 200 tremors felt until Tuesday 6:00 p.m., reached a magnitude of 7.5 according to the American Institute of geophysics and 7.6 according to the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA).
This earthquake, felt as far away as Tokyo, 320 km as the crow flies from Noto, also caused considerable material damage and a tsunami on Monday on the coasts of the Sea of Japan, which ultimately remained weak. magnitude, waves up to 1.2 meters high having been measured.
The tsunami risk level, which had initially been the subject of a rare maximum alert from the JMA, was then downgraded, then definitively lifted, on Tuesday.
- Series of powerful earthquakes in Japan, followed by a tsunami
Collision of two planes on the ground
The extent of the destruction was revealed as daylight broke on Tuesday: everywhere, old houses and other buildings collapsed, roads cracked, fishing boats capsized or stranded and fires persisted in the of smoking ruins.
“We must race against time” to save lives, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday.
A large fire notably devastated part of the city center of Wajima, a small historic port in the north of the Noto Peninsula known for its artisanal lacquer products. A commercial building also collapsed due to the earthquake.
“Hold on! Hold fast ! », shouted firefighters as they crawled through the rubble using an electric saw, according to images from Japanese television.
More than 30,000 homes remained without electricity on Tuesday and many towns in Ishikawa department no longer have access to drinking water, while winter brings cold and humidity to this rural area.
More than 60,000 residents of the region had received evacuation instructions on Monday, according to the national fire and natural disaster management agency.
A thousand soldiers from the Japan Self-Defense Forces, as well as more than 2,000 firefighters and some 630 police officers have arrived as reinforcements in the disaster areas, Mr. Kishida said on Tuesday.
The Prime Minister announced on Monday the sending of essential goods such as drinking water, food, blankets, gasoline and even fuel oil, by plane or by boat.
Indirectly, this disaster caused another tragedy at Tokyo-Haneda airport, with the death late Tuesday afternoon of five people in a ground collision involving a Japanese Coast Guard plane and another from the Japan Airlines.
“The commander [of the coast guard plane, editor’s note] was able to escape,” but the five other people on board “died,” declared Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito .
All 379 passengers and crew members of Japan Airlines aircraft JAL516 were able to be evacuated “safe and sound”, added the minister.
Imperial New Year Greetings Canceled
Faced with the disaster, the traditional public New Year greetings of Japanese Emperor Naruhito and his family, which were to take place on Tuesday in Tokyo, were canceled.
Many damaged roads were closed and high-speed train (shinkansen) traffic between Tokyo and Ishikawa, interrupted on Monday, resumed on Tuesday afternoon.
Some 2,400 passengers were stuck overnight on shinkansen or other stopped trains, some for nearly 24 hours, according to NHK television station. Around 500 people were also stuck at Noto airport, where the runway and access roads were damaged.
Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan is one of the countries where earthquakes are most frequent.
The Japanese archipelago is haunted by the memory of the terrible 9.0 magnitude earthquake followed by a giant tsunami in March 2011 on its northeastern coasts, a disaster which left some 20,000 dead and missing.
This disaster also led to the Fukushima nuclear accident, the worst since Chernobyl in 1986.
“No anomaly” was detected in the nuclear power plants, the Japanese nuclear safety authority assured on Monday.
Several friendly countries of Japan including the United States, Canada, France and Italy offered help if necessary. China expressed its condolences.