Firefighters inspect collapsed wooden houses in the city of Wajima on Japan's Noto Peninsula, the area hardest hit by the New Year's Day earthquake (Photo: AFP/Kazuhiro NOGI) -
Voinews, Jakarta, WAJIMA: Japanese rescuers scrambled to search for survivors on Wednesday (Jan 3) as authorities warned of landslides and heavy rain after a powerful earthquake that killed at least 62 people.
The 7.5-magnitude quake on Jan 1 that rattled Ishikawa prefecture on the main island of Honshu triggered tsunami waves more than a metre high, sparked a major fire and tore apart roads.
The Noto Peninsula of the prefecture was most severely hit, with several hundred buildings ravaged by fire and houses flattened in several towns, including Wajima and Suzu, as shown by before-and-after satellite images released on Wednesday.
The regional government announced on Wednesday that 62 people had been confirmed dead and more than 300 injured, 20 of them seriously.
The toll was expected to climb as rescuers battle aftershocks and poor weather to comb through rubble.
More than 31,800 people were in shelters, the government said.
"More than 40 hours have passed since the disaster. We have received a lot of information about people in need of rescue and there are people waiting for help," Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Wednesday after an emergency task force meeting.
The number of military personnel sent to the area on rescue missions has been doubled, with more rescue dogs also deployed, he added.
The operation was given extra urgency as the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) issued a heavy rain warning in the region, advising people to be on alert for landslides until Wednesday evening.
There were "almost no houses standing" in one town in the Suzu area, said municipal mayor Masuhiro Izumiya.
"About 90 per cent of the houses (in that town) are completely or almost completely destroyed ... The situation is really catastrophic," he said, according to broadcaster TBS//CNA-VOI