A week after a devastating 7.6-magnitude earthquake rocked Japan western coast on New Year’s Day, over 168 have been declared dead and hundreds more remain missing. But for the thousands now rendered homeless by the destruction, the disaster is far from over.
In the quake’s epicenter on the Noto peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture, rescue crews continue sifting through rubble while residents grapple with the exhausting reality that their hometowns lie in ruins. The landscape is now painted with collapsed homes, damaged highways and the ashen remnants of entire neighborhoods.
The human toll so far includes 70 killed in Wajima, 70 in Suzu and 18 in Anamizu, with deaths scattered across five other affected towns. But with 323 area residents still unaccounted for, that number tragically creeps higher each day as emergency response teams update missing persons records.
Nearly 600 others suffered injuries from falling debris or desperate escape attempts when the tremors began rolling through while many celebrated New Year’s Day. Over 1,390 houses and buildings sustained total or near-total destruction as well, leaving survivors searching for temporary shelter.
And the disaster may still be far from its end. Japanese meteorologists caution strong aftershocks could persist for weeks, further rattling nerves and hampering rebuilding efforts. Just in the past week, over 1,000 sizable tremors have continued shaking the region.
Exhausted Survivors Face Uncertain Futures
For locals whose livelihoods relied on now-decimated homes or harbor infrastructure, the road to recovery looks long and bleak. Fisherman Shuji Yoshiura surveyed his damaged fleet and lamented that he cannot sail or earn income for his family.
Other residents described ongoing stress wrestling with insurance assessors, securing government reimbursement funds, finding hospitals able to treat lingering injuries and accessing aid supplies from overwhelmed local charities.
With the entire water system disrupted as well, procuring drinking water adds another layer of urgency for survivors. And the continuous aftershocks make even makeshift shelters feel precarious.
Japan is all too familiar with seismic disasters, but that offers little comfort for thousands experiencing homelessness and deprivation first-hand. The northerly snowfall only makes conditions feel more isolating at evacuation centers too.