Europe 1 with AFP // Photo credit: Kohei Choji / Yomiuri / The Yomiuri Shimbun via AFP 15:20 p.m., January 07, 2024

Almost a week after the earthquake that struck Japan, a woman in her nineties was pulled alive from the rubble. The quake, measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale, killed at least 128 people and 195 people remain missing. Harsh weather makes rescue operations more difficult.

A woman in her nineties was pulled alive from the rubble of the earthquake that killed at least 128 people in central Japan, according to a new count, but rescue efforts were made more difficult by snowfall on Sunday. The 7.5 magnitude earthquake that devastated the Noto Peninsula on the western coast of the island of Honshu, the largest in the archipelago, on 1 January, also left 560 people injured and 195 people still missing, according to a new toll announced Sunday afternoon by local authorities.

On Saturday, a woman in her nineties was found alive after spending five days under the debris of her collapsed home in Suzu, at the tip of the peninsula bordering the Sea of Japan. She was able to answer questions clearly when she was rescued and taken to hospital for treatment, public broadcaster NHK reported. "Hold on!" rescuers shouted at him in the rain, in a video shot by police and broadcast by local media. "Everything will be fine!", "stay positive".

A Tokyo police spokesman confirmed to AFP that the rescue was carried out by police officers in Tokyo and the southwestern city of Fukuoka, without giving further details.

"I want them to be alive"

Many were less fortunate: In the city of Anamizu, also on the peninsula, a 52-year-old man who learned of the death of his 21-year-old son and his in-laws was waiting for news of other family members. "I want them to be alive. It's unthinkable that I'm going to be alone," he told NHK. In the city, an AFP photographer saw rescuers dressed in orange and blue raincoats carrying the body of a landslide victim, covered with a blue tarpaulin.

The quake, followed by hundreds of aftershocks, caused buildings and roads to collapse, a thousand landslides, fires, especially in Wajima, where authorities believe many residents are still under the rubble. The quake, felt as far away as Tokyo, 300 kilometres away, also triggered a tsunami, with waves more than a metre high.

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Rescue workers are continuing their efforts to search for people missing or isolated due to roads damaged by the earthquake, and to deliver food and equipment to those affected. Some 29,000 people were sheltering in 404 government shelters on Sunday, according to Ishikawa Prefecture.

Rain and heavy snowfall expected locally

The situation has worsened further with the deterioration of weather conditions on Sunday, which is expected to continue on Monday, with rain and heavy snowfall expected locally. Japan's meteorological agency has warned of the risk of hypothermia. Further landslides due to precipitation are to be feared and ice is expected to further complicate traffic on the roads damaged by the earthquake.

Due to poor road conditions, Japan's Self-Defense Forces have sent a small group of soldiers on foot to each of the remote communities and deployed helicopters, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told NHK on Sunday. "In parallel with these efforts, there is a need to improve the housing and health conditions of those affected by the disaster," as this situation is expected to continue, Kishida added, adding that "sustained and long-term efforts" would be needed to rebuild the devastated areas.

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Some 18,000 homes remained without power in Ishikawa on Sunday night and more than 66,000 homes were without water. The quake is the first to kill more than 100 people in Japan since the devastating earthquake in Kumamoto in 276 that killed 2016 people. Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan is one of the countries with the most frequent earthquakes.

The archipelago is haunted by the memory of the terrible magnitude 9.0 earthquake followed by a giant tsunami in March 2011 on its northeastern coast, a disaster that left some 20,000 dead or missing. The disaster also led to the Fukushima nuclear accident, the worst since Chernobyl in 1986.