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Death toll from west Japan earthquake rises to 126 as rain

Snow imperil already shaky ground

Wajima city has recorded the highest number of deaths with 69, followed by Suzu with 38. More than 500 people were injured, at least 27 of them seriously.

earthquakeWAJIMA: Aftershocks threatened to bury more homes and block roads crucial for relief shipments, as the death toll from the earthquakes that rattled Japan’s western coastline this past week rose to 126 on Saturday.

Among the dead was a 5-year-old boy who had been recovering from injuries after boiling water spilt on him during Monday’s 7.6 magnitude earthquake. His condition suddenly worsened and he died Friday, according to Ishikawa prefecture, the hardest-hit region.

Officials warned that roads, already cracked from the dozens of earthquakes that continue to shake the area, could collapse completely. That risk was growing with rain and snow expected overnight and Sunday.

The death toll on Saturday rose to 126. Wajima city has recorded the highest number of deaths with 69, followed by Suzu with 38. More than 500 people were injured, at least 27 of them seriously.

The temblors left roofs sitting haplessly on roads and everything beneath them crushed flat. Roads were warped like rubber. A fire turned a neighbourhood in Wajima to ashes.

More than 200 people were still unaccounted for, although the number has fluctuated. Eleven people were reported trapped under two homes that collapsed in Anamizu.

For Shiro Kokuda, 76, the house in Wajima where he grew up was spared but a nearby temple went up in flames and he was still looking for his friends at evacuation centres.

“It’s been really tough,” he said.

Japan is one of the fastest-age societies in the world. The population in Ishikawa and nearby areas has dwindled over the years. A fragile economy centred on crafts and tourism was now more imperilled than ever.

In an unusual gesture from nearby North Korea, leader Kim Jong Un sent a message of condolence to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the official Korean Central News Agency reported Saturday.

Japan earlier received messages expressing sympathy and promises of aid from President Joe Biden and other allies.

Japanese government spokesman Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters that Japan was grateful to all the messages, including the one from North Korea. Hayashi said the last time Japan received a condolence message from North Korea for a disaster was in 1995.

Along Japan’s coastline, power was gradually being restored, but water supplies were still short. Emergency water systems were also damaged.

Thousands of troops were flying and trucking in water, food and medicine to the more than 30,000 people who had evacuated to auditoriums, schools and other facilities.

The nationally circulated Yomiuri newspaper reported that its aerial study had located more than 100 landslides in the area, and some were blocking lifeline roads.

The urgency of the rescue operations intensified as the days wore on. But some have clung to life, trapped under pillars and walls, and were freed.

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