6 months after Noto quake: More feared to die from post-disaster stress, fatigue

Monday marks six months since a major earthquake jolted the Noto Peninsula of Ishikawa Prefecture and nearby areas of central Japan. The number of deaths from post-disaster causes could increase further.

Officials have confirmed that the magnitude 7.6 quake left 281 people dead and three others unaccounted for in the prefecture.

The fatalities include 52 individuals who died after falling ill due to post-disaster causes, including fatigue and psychological stress.

More are feared to die from such factors because many residents who lost their homes in the quake have no choice but to live in temporary housing or other shelters.

Experts are calling on local governments and private-sector groups to work together to provide evacuees with meticulous support, such as lifestyle monitoring and nursing-care services.

Officials estimated 22,000 buildings in quake-stricken areas need to be demolished and the debris cleared by local municipalities on behalf of their owners. But the procedure has been completed for only about 4 percent, or roughly 900, of them.

Housing repairers are also facing a huge backlog of requests for fixing quake-damaged homes.

Meanwhile, a study shows that the New Year's Day quake triggered a phenomenon called liquefaction at many locations.

Liquefaction causes underground soil to behave like a liquid as a result of strong ground shaking. It can lead to water spouting from the ground, and tilting of buildings and other structures.

Senna Shigeki of the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience surveyed quake-hit areas. He broke down the areas into 250- by 250-meter blocks.

As of the end of May, he had found that liquefaction took place at 2,114 blocks in 34 municipalities in the prefectures of Ishikawa, Fukui, Toyama and Niigata.

That was about 200 more than the count confirmed after a series of powerful quakes that focused on the southwestern prefecture of Kumamoto in 2016. A tally of 8,680 was observed after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Seismologists say liquefaction is more likely to occur when the intensity of a quake registers upper 5 or greater on the Japanese scale of zero to 7.

But the January 1 quake caused liquefaction in many areas that recorded the intensity of lower 5 or below.

Senna explained why liquefaction was seen across wide areas.

He said the quake-hit areas include many beaches, reclaimed plots and other types of land where liquefaction has a greater tendency to occur, due to higher-than-usual groundwater levels.

The researcher also said the quake caused strong ground motion to last for roughly 40 seconds.