Tokyo: The death toll has climbed to 168 in Japan’s Ishikawa after a series of earthquakes of up to 7.6 magnitude struck the central prefecture and its vicinity last week, as heavy snow and rain have hampered rescue operations.
The number of people currently unaccounted for surged to 323 in the hardest-hit prefecture as of 2 p.m. local time on Monday, while at least 565 people suffered injuries due to the quakes, according to local authorities.
The Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture has recorded 1,218 tremors rated at least 1 on the country’s seven-tier seismic intensity scale in the week that followed the powerful earthquake on New Year’s Day, public broadcaster NHK reported on Monday.
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) warned on Monday that quake-stricken areas are likely to experience powerful tremors with an intensity of upper five or more on the Japanese scale in the coming month, Xinhua news agency reported.
JMA official Shinya Tsukada told a press conference that a quake as powerful as the 7.6-magnitude one on January 1 is less likely to take place, but there is continued seismic activity.
Tsukada warned of increased risk of building collapses and landslides, calling on people not to enter dangerous places when engaging in recovery efforts.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Monday that 500 people could be temporarily housed in a sports centre in Kanazawa but said more evacuation centres were needed, adding that the government was also working to find hotel rooms for evacuees.
Meanwhile, a cold air mass has been bringing snow to Ishikawa prefecture and other parts of the Hokuriku region as well as Niigata Prefecture, according to the JMA.
As of 2 p.m. local time on Monday, snow accumulation in cities in the Noto Peninsula area had reached about 10 cm. The snowfall is also delaying rescue and recovery efforts there.
The weather agency urged people in the disaster-hit areas to take extra caution with the quake-damaged buildings, which could collapse under the weight of snow, and to stay warm to prevent hypothermia amid severe cold.
The 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake is the first to kill more than 100 people in Japan since the 2016 Kumamoto quakes in the country’s southwestern region, which claimed 276 lives.