Earthquake in Japan: 78 dead - Dozens missing

Fears of more dead as hundreds of buildings were destroyed

Screenshot 6 1 Japan, EARTHQUAKE

Dozens of people were still missing in central Japan today after a powerful New Year's earthquake killed at least 78 people, according to the latest, still provisional, death toll released, while the extent of damage complicated rescue efforts. crews.

The 7,5-magnitude earthquake, which was felt as far as the capital Tokyo, more than 300 kilometers away in a straight line, hit the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, a narrow strip of land that reaches a hundred kilometers into the Sea of ​​Japan. It caused the collapse of dozens of buildings and destroyed many roads.

At least 330 people were injured, and hundreds of aftershocks followed, some very strong. A tsunami hit its shores, with waves over a meter high sweeping away boats and dumping them on quays or coastal roads.

According to Japanese public broadcaster NHK, at least one person was swept away by the tsunami near Suzu, at the tip of the peninsula, and the Japanese coast guard is looking for him.

According to NHK, researchers estimate that the tsunami hit the city of Suzhou less than a minute after the main earthquake struck, meaning residents living by the sea had little time to evacuate.

Nearly 72 hours after the disaster, a window considered critical for finding survivors, prefectural authorities in Ishikawa this morning released a list of the names of 51 people who remain missing.

"The situation is very difficult but (…) I ask you to make every effort to save as many lives as possible as of tonight," Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said during a cabinet meeting.

While the prefecture in Ishikawa says the death toll is 78, the toll could rise even higher as hundreds of buildings were destroyed, including by a widespread fire in the city of Uajima.

The rain is making search and rescue operations involving thousands of members of the Japanese armed forces, fire brigade and police from across the archipelago even more difficult. The Japan Meteorological Agency has issued an emergency warning bulletin as it considers there is a risk of landslides.

Tens of thousands of households still without electricity and water

The conditions are making it difficult to deliver food and other supplies to earthquake victims, including about 300 who have taken shelter in a school in Suzhou.

The military was expected to use helicopters to reach areas where access is more difficult.

Some 29.000 households remain without power in Ishikawa, while more than 110.000 are without water in that prefecture and elsewhere.

Early this morning in the city of Nanao, in the central part of the peninsula, police were trying to regulate traffic and were informing drivers that one of the main roads, leading to the port in Oujima, in the north, would be used as a priority by service vehicles dealing with emergency situations (ambulances, fire engines, machines...).

A short distance away, a long queue had formed at a petrol station, where sales were on a ticket basis — 16 liters per car — although no shortages have appeared so far.

Japan, on the so-called ring of fire of the Pacific Ocean, is among the countries that record many of the strongest earthquakes in the world.

The country remains haunted by the terrifying 9-magnitude earthquake and giant tsunami of March 2011 off the country's northeastern coast, a triple disaster that left some 20.000 dead and missing.

The earthquake and tsunami caused the Fukushima nuclear accident, the worst in history since Chernobyl (in present-day Ukraine) in 1986.

This time, however, the earthquake and hundreds of aftershocks caused only minor damage to nuclear power plants along the coast, according to the companies that operate them.