The search for survivors continued on Wednesday, January 3, in central Japan after the terrible New Year’s earthquake, but the rescuers faced very unfavorable weather in their efforts.

Authorities warned of heavy rain all day and possible landslides in the disaster zone, the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, a long, thin strip of land that extends into the Sea of ​​Japan. “Be alert for landslides until Wednesday evening,” the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) warned.

An official from the Ishikawa department, interviewed by Agence France-Presse (AFP) but who did not wish to give his name, announced “62 deaths” and mentioned more than 300 injured, including twenty serious. This toll could rise further, as research is expected to last a long time in these rural areas with villages that are difficult to access, especially due to the state of the roads. Many people could still be trapped under the rubble of their homes, according to the NHK television channel.

More than 31,800 people in shelters

Some areas were made unstable by the major earthquake which occurred on New Year’s Day at 4:10 p.m. (8:10 a.m. PST), reaching a magnitude of 7.5 according to the United States Institute of Geophysics (USGS). ) and 7.6 according to the JMA. But also by several hundred other tremors felt – some also strong – since this earthquake, and the tsunami which followed with waves of more than one meter which devastated the coasts, the roads and the houses along the banks of the river. Wed. Hundreds of buildings on the Noto Peninsula were completely or partially destroyed by the disaster.

More than 31,800 people are taking refuge in shelters, according to authorities, and nearly 34,000 homes are still without electricity in Ishikawa department. Many are also deprived of running water.

Masuhiro Izumiya, the mayor of Suzu, said that “virtually no houses were still standing” in this small town on the far tip of the Noto Peninsula, according to television station TBS. “About 90% of the houses are totally or almost completely destroyed (…). The situation is catastrophic,” he added.

A woman who sought refuge in a shelter in Shika, in the west of the peninsula, told TV Asahi that she had “not been able to sleep” because of the aftershocks. “I was scared because we don’t know when the next earthquake will hit. »

“With an earthquake of magnitude 7.5, we should expect to have aftershocks for several months,” geologist Robin Lacassin, research director at CNRS, told AFP on Tuesday.

The country’s nuclear power plants spared

“Shinkansen”, Japanese high-speed trains, have resumed service in central Japan since Tuesday after some 2,400 passengers spent hours – and an entire day for some – stranded on the tracks or in stations. The region’s highways have also reopened.

Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan is one of the countries with the most frequent earthquakes in the world. The 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 dead and missing.

This disaster also led to the Fukushima nuclear accident, the worst since Chernobyl in 1986. No serious problems have yet been observed at Japanese nuclear power plants after the New Year’s earthquake.