Japan’s Noto earthquake: thousands of survivors struggle as accusations of neglect grow

The Guardian

The lives of 14,000 people affected by the New Year’s day disaster remain in limbo, living in evacuation shelters, and surviving hand to mouth.

Seven weeks after a magnitude-7.6 earthquake struck the isolated Noto peninsula in western Japan, Koji Aizawa and his family must still travel almost 100km to take a weekly bath.

The house Aizawa, 61, now shares with his wife and sister was still standing after the quake, but the lack of running water means they are struggling with daily necessities, with hygiene top of the list. “We have to go to Kanazawa every weekend for a bath and to do our laundry,” he says. “We have electricity, but no running water. Fetching water so we can flush the toilet is the hardest part.”

The earthquake, Japan’s worst since the Kumamoto disaster eight years ago, struck as families were celebrating on New Year’s Day, killing 230 people and badly damaging or destroying 49,000 homes. The repair bill could be as high as ¥2.6tn ($17.6bn), according to government estimates.

Yet, the weeks pass by and work has yet to begin clearing almost 2.5m tonnes of wreckage, and the lives of around 14,000 people affected by the disaster remain in limbo. Many of them are elderly, and are still living in hundreds of school gymnasiums, community halls and other makeshift evacuation centres, where a lack of running water has raised the risk of infections such as stomach flu and Covid-19.

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