Japan earthquake: Rescue efforts enter third day as survival hopes fade

Japanese Self Defence Force members inspect a collapsed house in the city of Suzu, Ishikawa prefecture.
Dozens of people have been killed by the earthquake. Credit: AP

Search and rescue efforts are urgently continuing in Japan for a third day after a powerful earthquake killed dozens of people.

Western Japan's Ishikawa prefecture was hit by a 7.6 magnitude quake on Monday, triggering tsunami warnings across the country.

At least 65 people have now been confirmed dead, although many more are believed to be trapped under building debris. More than 300 people have also been left injured.

Experts say the first 72 hours after an earthquake are especially critical because the prospects for survival greatly diminish after three days.

Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on Tuesday that a "critical moment" of the rescue operation had now been reached, adding teams are in a "race against time".

Firefighters search an area in Suzu for survivors. Credit: AP

On Tuesday, a coast guard plane carrying aid for the victims of the quake was involved in a collision with a Japan Airlines aircraft, killing five people on board the former.

All 379 people on JAL Flight 516 survived the incident despite the plane bursting into flames upon impact with the coast guard plane.

The quake's epicentre occurred at the Noto peninsula - an area with narrow landscape which has made it difficult for rescue teams to reach some communities.

Conditions for rescue workers are expected to become more hazardous with heavy rain and near below minus temperatures forecast for the Ishikawa region.

The majority of the deaths have so far been recorded in the cities of Wajima and Suzu.

Satellite images from April 27, 2021 and January 2, 2024 show how the earthquake devastated a neighbourhood in Wajima (Credit: AP)

Some 33,000 evacuees, who are sheltering together, have been urged to use masks, antiseptic spray and soap to guard against the spread of infectious diseases.

In the aftermath of Monday's quake, officials have also warned of ensuing aftershocks.

Japan is particularly prone to earthquakes as the country lies along a number of geological fault lines and volcanoes.

In 2011, a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami rocked Japan, killing more than 15,000 people and triggering a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi powerplant.

No major problems were reported at Japan's nuclear plants after Monday's quake.

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