TOPSHOT - People walk past a badly damaged house in the city of Nanao, Ishikawa Prefecture, on January 2, 2024, a day after a major 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Noto region in Ishikawa prefecture. Japanese rescuers battled against the clock and powerful aftershocks on January 2 to find survivors of a major earthquake that struck on New Year's Day, killing at least 48 people and causing widespread destruction. (Photo by JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT (Photo by STR/JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images)

More than 50 people have been reported missing, as Japanese rescuers battle the cold to reach communities that remain cut off three days after a devastating earthquake struck the country’s western coast.

At least 78 people have been confirmed dead and 330 injured since the magnitude 7.6 earthquake off the Noto Peninsula on January 1, according to local authorities.

On Thursday, officials published a list of 51 people from three cities whose whereabouts could not be confirmed.

More than a dozen communities have been cut off.

Soldiers, firefighters and police officers from across Japan are searching through collapsed wooden houses and toppled commercial buildings for signs of life. Experts say the first three days are especially critical because the prospects for survival drop sharply after that.

“This is a very difficult situation. But from the viewpoint of protecting lives, I ask that you make every effort to save and rescue as many lives as possible by this evening, when the critical 72 hours of the disaster will have passed,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at a government meeting on Thursday.

He announced that the number of troops dispatched to the area for rescue operations was being increased from about 1,000 to 4,600.

The narrowness of the hard-hit Noto Peninsula has added to the challenges in reaching some communities. Water, power and mobile phone services were still down in some areas.

There have been nearly 600 aftershocks since the main quake, raising fears of landslides with forecasts of rain adding to the risk.

Source: Aljazeera

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