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PM Kishida Pledges Full Government Support for Earthquake-Hit Region

PM Kishida gave initial statements on his hopes and plans for the year, then questions focused on the situation in earthquake-devastated Ishikawa Prefecture.

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Prime Minister Fumio Kishida addresses journalists on January 4 (© Sankei).

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged on January 4 to "provide all the necessary support" to victims in the earthquake-affected area of Ishikawa Prefecture. More than 72 hours had passed since the initial tremors. However, he also emphasized that rescue operations would continue efforts to "save as many people as possible." 

National broadcaster NHK reported that 84 people have been confirmed dead in the disaster as of 7 PM JST.

Kishida's remarks came in his customary New Year's press conference. Questions after his initial remarks focused on the 7.6 magnitude earthquake cluster that hit the northwest side of Japan on January 1. 

Continued Rescue Efforts

The press conference came just 72 hours after the disaster struck. This was a critical mark. Beyond 72 hours, it's believed that the chances of successfully rescuing victims in the rubble drop significantly. 

Despite this, the prime minister said the authorities were continuing "all possible efforts to rescue people." His most recent updates were two hours before the press conference, he said. Out of the 138 calls for rescue assistance, about 58 still needed to be addressed, said Kishida. 

Relief efforts were underway despite the difficult access conditions on the Noto Peninsula. Combined, over 7,000 members of the Self-Defense Forces, police, and fire brigades were dispatched to the area, Kishida explained. 

Thousands of people were staying in shelters. There were as many as 110,000 households without water and 30,000 without electricity, according to government figures. "The Hokuriku region (northwest part of Honshu) is cold in winter. And I am aware that the situation for the evacuees is very harsh," acknowledged Kishida. 

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The prime minister also shared that truck access has been restored to the area. This has facilitated the delivery of lifeline supplies to the region. 

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida addresses journalists on January 4 (© Sankei).

Long-Term Support and Care

It's expected that government support will be needed to support basic living needs while the community gets back on its feet. 

Going forward, he added, "There is the possibility that many will have to keep using the evacuation centers in the long term. We will therefore provide continuing living support for the disaster-affected citizens."

Kishida also shared that several countries have sent messages of condolences and offers of support for the disaster-affected region. 

"At the moment, we are not accepting any kind of material or human support. However, we are very grateful for the financial support," said Kishida. For example, as of January 4, Taiwan announced it would donate ¥60 million JPY (approximately $420,000 USD) to support relief efforts. 

"We are currently arranging for further help to be streamlined to the affected areas," the prime minister elaborated. 

People surveying the damage on Asaichi Dori, in Wajima, Kawaimachi, at 3 PM on January 2. (©Sankei by Yoshinori Saito)

Addressing Fake Information on Social Media

As often happens in disaster situations, the earthquake has been followed by a rampant stream of fake information on social media, such as X (formerly Twitter). 

"We are aware that there have been people posting fake home addresses, or unrelated footage, and then asking to be saved. This sort of behavior is unforgivable," said Kishida. 

He pledged that the government would keep sharing correct information. And he asked that citizens remain vigilant to not be swayed by fake or misleading information.  

'Restoring Faith in Politics'

While entering 2024, the prime minister is still dealing with the backlash to a scandal in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). It derives from accusations of a lack of transparency in how funds from LDP fundraising events have been handled. Allegations of kickbacks to LDP lawmakers are at the center of the problem. The parties were not illegal, but the LDP's lack of transparency on how the funds were channeled has led to questions. 

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Addressing this criticism once more, Kishida explained that a special committee is being set up this week to investigate the incident. In addition, the government is expected to propose a bill to reform the law monitoring the political funding process to guarantee transparency.

"We can't have a government without the trust of the people, and I plan to exert all efforts to restore people's faith in politics," said Kishida. 

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Author: Arielle Busetto

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