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EDITORIAL | Time to Airlift Noto Peninsula Residents Cut Off by Earthquake

Government can better care for residents stranded at the tip of the Noto Peninsula if they are rescued and brought to evacuation sites outside the prefecture.



Heavy equipment and relief supplies are delivered to Wajima City, Ishikawa Prefecture, using a landing craft from the MSDF transport ship "Osumi." The equipment is addressing the problem of isolated villages in Ishikawa Prefecture. (© Sankei by Masamichi Kirihara)

It has now been 13 days since the massive Noto Peninsula earthquake. It struck Ishikawa Prefecture with a maximum seismic intensity of "7" on New Year's Day. As rescue teams continue to search for missing people, environmental conditions in the disaster area are becoming even more difficult due to snowfall and other factors.

It is a particular concern that many areas remain isolated due to road closures and other complications. According to reports, not enough relief supplies, such as food and fuel, have gotten through to earthquake victims. Hopefully, the national government and local governments will work together and do their utmost to help these isolated areas. 

Members of the Yokohama City Fire Department use shovels to dig into the rubble searching for victims on January 10. Meifune-cho, Wajima City, Ishikawa Prefecture (Photo provided by the Yokohama City Fire Department)

Heavily Damaged Areas

According to Ishikawa Prefecture, as of 2 PM on January 9, 3123 residents in the prefecture remained cut off due to roads being unpassable as the result of cave-ins or landslides. 

Many of the stranded live in communities like Wajima City and Suzu City in "Oku-Noto'' ("Deep Noto") at the tip of the Noto Peninsula. This region has few roads and the coastal route has been damaged by the earthquake and tsunami. The situation is therefore quite serious, and many local residents have become isolated. 

For these reasons, the Self-Defense Forces have started bringing in relief supplies by helicopter. In addition, they have been transporting injured or ill residents to hospitals or other facilities elsewhere. Landing craft air cushion vessels (LCAC) belonging to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) have also transported heavy equipment to the coast of Wajima City. That is speeding up recovery efforts in areas that currently cannot be reached by land. 

These air and sea operations have proved effective, and relief systems should be strengthened by such means. 

There is no prospect of resuming classes at Wajima Junior High School, which also serves as an evacuation center. January 12, 2024 in Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture. (© Sankei by Masamichi Kirihara)

However, to end their isolation, we should intensify efforts to move those residents to safer areas by helicopter or other means. In addition to fuel shortages in isolated areas, toilets cannot be used due to water outages. Moreover, the situation is worsening by the day. 

Evacuations and Security

At a meeting of the Emergency Headquarters for the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake on Wednesday, January 10, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed related organizations to promote secondary evacuation to other areas. Top priority should be given to the elderly, pregnant women, and sick people living in harsh environments.

Ishikawa Prefecture by itself is limited as to the number of people it can accommodate. Therefore, evacuation sites outside the prefecture should be expanded. We hope that every local government will cooperate and strive to secure lodging for those who have been displaced by the earthquake.

Rescue workers search for a missing person at the site of a landslide covered in snow on January 12. In Ichinose-cho, Wajima City, Ishikawa Prefecture. (© Sankei by Masamichi Kirihara)

In addition, to alleviate the concerns of disaster-affected residents, it is essential to strengthen security patrols, including in areas where all the residents have been evacuated. 

Proactive use of drones could also prove effective for relief efforts in isolated areas. A thorough search for earthquake survivors should be carried out from above, lest residents who are unable to communicate with the outside are left behind. Disabled motor vehicles should also be checked individually to ensure that no one who needs help is overlooked. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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