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, who was queuing with hundreds of other residents of Shika, a small town on the Noto peninsula, to collect water. 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 Japan 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 coast of the Sea of Japan, which ultimately remained weak. magnitude, with 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.
Collision of two planes on the ground
The extent of the destruction was revealed at daybreak on Tuesday: everywhere, old houses and other buildings collapsed, roads cracked, fishing boats having capsized or run aground and persistent fires in the middle. smoking ruins.
“We must embark on a race against time” to save lives, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on 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 fast ! 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.
” Commander [de l’avion des garde-côtes, NDLR] was able to escape,” but the other five people on board “died,” Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito said.
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 Japan’s 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 stranded overnight on shinkansen or other stopped trains, some for nearly 24 hours, according to NHK television. Around 500 people were also stuck at Noto airport, whose runway and access roads were damaged.
Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan is one of the countries with the most frequent earthquakes.
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 people dead or 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.