"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Press Conference by the Prime Minister on the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake

[Date] January 3, 2024
[Source] Cabinet Public Affairs Office, Cabinet Secretariat
[Notes] Provisional translation
[Full text]

I have been briefed that according to information from local municipalities, more than 60 people have lost their lives due to the latest earthquake. I would like to renew my condolences for those who lost their lives, as well as my sympathies for all those affected by the disaster.

More than 40 hours have passed since the earthquake occurred. It is a race against time to save the lives of affected people and we now face a critical moment. Since immediately after the onset of the disaster, we have made utmost efforts for activities such as gathering information and rescue operations with the Self Defense Forces (SDF), police, the emergency rescue units of the fire departments and other organizations playing key roles, but I have been informed that there are still many people trapped under collapsed buildings who are waiting for the arrival of rescue personnel. Today again, we have strengthened each front-line unit including by increasing the scale of SDF personnel from 1,000 to 2,000 and more than doubling the number of rescue dogs working with the SDF and police, for the purpose of putting human lives first in our rescue efforts.

To secure routes for bringing necessary large-scale heavy machinery into places where houses and other buildings have collapsed, we have reopened some of the damaged roads. In addition, we are determining the situations surrounding local ports to establish sea transportation routes, resulting in the launch of such transportation using some of the sea routes. Particularly, steady recovery work has proceeded in Wajima City where roads have reportedly been cut off, allowing the passage of midsize cars and others as a result of overnight efforts, including four-ton vehicles, which I have heard have already been allowed to pass. We will continue to accelerate work so that vehicles including large ones will be allowed to pass.

It is also extremely important to provide assistance to the affected people as their life as evacuees is feared to prolong. Regarding push-type transportation of supplies, some of the food and other life-related supplies have arrived at supply hubs for wide areas in Ishikawa Prefecture with the cooperation from related businesses, delivering such supplies to affected municipalities from early this morning. Blankets, toilet paper, portable toilets and other supplies have already been shipped to the affected area, and we will continue to closely monitor local needs such as those at evacuation centers to provide appropriate assistance.

Starting today, we will send officials with expertise in disaster management from municipalities in the Chubu Bloc to affected municipalities based on the request from such affected municipalities under the coordination of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. Under the direction of senior officials from relevant ministries and agencies, they will make utmost efforts to secure necessary supplies and other assistance in close collaboration with liaison officials dispatched to the affected municipalities and other personnel. Yesterday, I exchanged views with Ishikawa Prefectural Governor and Mayors of Wajima and Suzu, and today again, I will take the lead in responding to the needs of the affected area by directly exchanging views with heads of other affected municipalities.

In the affected area, the weather is forecast to deteriorate and active seismic activities are feared to continue. I urge local residents to continue to put security first while giving careful attention to landslides and other possible disasters.

(On what measures are considered with regard to the push-style support in response to the failure to deliver supplies to some of the evacuations centers; and how the Government intends apply the lessons learned from the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes)

Regarding push-type support, priority should be given to securing routes for transporting supplies to the affected area. To this end, we have been striving to reopen damaged roads and I have heard that routes have finally been secured in Wajima City and other municipalities for four-ton vehicles to pass. While hoping to realize a situation where large cars will also be able to pass going forward, we have started transportation of personnel and others by sea route while identifying the situations surrounding local ports and other factors. Needless to say, aerial transportation is also in place as before.

As it is important to secure assistance supplies while securing such transportation routes, the Government, for its part, has started to secure and transport supplies. As I mentioned yesterday, I have made a request for assistance from 16 businesses including operators of convenience stores and supermarkets. At the time of the Kumamoto Earthquakes, we saw food and other daily necessities collected and sent to the affected area. Going forward, we will strive to deliver as quickly as possible such supplies to the affected area through the secured transportation routes while also collecting supplies contributed by those related businesses.

Push-type support should naturally be employed to conduct such operations, but as I mentioned earlier, we will secure a system to appropriately deliver necessary supplies when necessary while carefully collecting information regarding local needs.

(On whether the Government has identified the whole picture of the disaster, the reason if doing so is difficult and the initiative most needed to identify the whole picture of the disaster; and what impact has been seen in the assistance activities such as transporting supplies and personnel to the affected area as a result of yesterday's collision accident at Haneda Airport)

Regarding the first question, I understand that we faced various obstacles in identifying the situation as the onset of the disaster was just before sunset and nighttime operations first continued for a certain while. However, after the daybreak on the following day, we saw robust activities on site with the participation of personnel who arrived from other regions, which allowed for a better understanding of the situation. Needless to say, we will continue to give careful attention to additional damages such as landslides in mountainous areas and others. Still, thanks to efforts of the many personnel concerned, we now have a better picture of the disaster. As I mentioned earlier, we have increased the scale of SDF personnel sent to the affected area from 1,000 to 2,000, but we have also seen more than 2,000 firefighters and more than 700 police officers arriving from other regions across the nation. We will continue to better identify the situation through the activities of such personnel.

Regarding the second question as to whether the accident at Haneda Airport has had any impact on the operations in the affected area, I would like to point out that various transportation routes have so far been secured with relevant ministries and agencies working together. As a whole, there has been no impact resulting from the accident. Thaks to the support from the ministries and agencies that are working together, we witness steady transportation of various supplies to the affected area.

(On the up-to-date numbers of those who lost their lives and those injured that the Government has identified as of now; and the scale of property damage and the number of requests for rescue operations)

Regarding human damage, according to the information compiled as of 8 a.m. today, based on the information from local municipalities and other organizations, there have been 62 deaths, 26 serious injuries and 110 minor injuries. With regard to the requests for rescue operations and others, I have been informed of around 130 cases where those trapped under collapsed buildings and others require such rescue efforts. Relevant ministries and agencies will continue to identify information regarding such damage.