Japan’s Rescuers Race As Winter Storm Approaches

Just six days after a devastating earthquake struck western Japan, killing 128 people, rescue workers have been trudging through snow to bring supplies to remote villages. Adding to the urgency, Ishikawa Prefecture is predicted to get heavy snowfall later Sunday and into the night. There were 560 casualties and 195 persons missing after Monday’s 7.6 magnitude earthquake. Following the first quakes, hundreds of aftershocks rattled the Noto Peninsula.

Taiyo Matsushita slogged through mud for three hours to go to a grocery store in Wajima to provide for his family. The power went out within hours, and they could not even use their mobile phones. Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture, was the site of a rescue operation late Saturday for a lady in her 90s who had been trapped in a collapsed house for 124 hours.

Following the first 72 hours, the likelihood of survival significantly decreases. Wajima had 69 fatalities, Suzu 38, and Anamizu 11; the other four towns had lower numbers of casualties. Nine individuals are reportedly trapped under fallen buildings in Anamizu, and rescuers are attempting to reach them.

Because the chances of life drastically decrease after the first 72 hours, rescue efforts must be prioritized during this time. According to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the number of soldiers sent out for rescue efforts has increased from around 1,000 to 4,600.

Around 34,000 individuals have been forced to seek refuge in evacuation shelters due to the calamity; among them are several individuals who are freezing, hungry, and filled with fear. The earthquakes and tsunami devastated boats, roads, and houses—many old and constructed of wood. A massive fire in Wajima city reduced a whole neighborhood to rubble. Given Japan’s volcanic and seismic history, authorities warn that more powerful tremors may be on the horizon.

According to Takako Izumi, a disaster science professor at Tohoku University, planning logistics takes time since roads are often impassable after an earthquake, making it impossible for big trucks to transport assistance. Airdrops or boats may be required to provide supplies if land routes are inaccessible. The health hazards are already high due to the winter cold, and some individuals could not have made it to an evacuation center yet.