Press Conference by the Prime Minister on the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake
Yesterday, the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake with a maximum intensity of seven on the Japanese scale of zero to seven occurred. First of all, I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to those who lost their lives, as well as my sympathies to all those affected by the disaster.
Following the establishment last night of the Emergency Headquarters that I lead, we held a meeting of the headquarters a short while ago. This initiative is the same as what the Government took at the time of the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes.
Under my leadership as the head of the headquarters, personnel from the Self-Defense Forces, Japan Coast Guard, fire departments, police and other organizations will be mobilized over a wide area in a thoroughly collaborative manner; senior officials from relevant ministries and agencies will be sent to the affected area in a vigorous manner to ensure push-type support on site; direct online communication will be established between heads of local municipalities and the Government to help quick collection of information and deployment of support; and clear instructions have been given to operators of public infrastructure, especially operators of mobile phones and public transportation systems.
What is necessary at first hand is to identify the local situation. We have been making utmost efforts to gather information since last night while access to the northern part of the Noto Peninsula is extremely difficult with local roads cut off.
A short while ago, a little past 9 a.m., I had a direct telephone talk with State Minister of the Cabinet Office Koga, who had been sent to the affected area. He reported that, looking from the helicopter flying over the affected area, he could see roads cut off and damages caused by landslides, fires and others extending over wide areas. According to a report compiled by the Emergency Headquarters based on the information gathered from local municipalities, police, fire departments, the SDF and other organizations, a large-scale damage has been identified, including damage on a large number of people and buildings that collapsed, combined with fires and other damage.
Emergency relief units and other groups from SDF, police, fire departments and others started to engage in emergency rescue operations as they reached the affected area as early as last night using all possible means, including the use of SDF aircrafts. In addition, the Air Self Defense Force unit from the Wajima Sub Base , which has been engaged in on-site operations since the onset of the disaster, has been providing assistance to affected people and rescuing those trapped under collapsed houses, as well as transporting dialysis patients from hospitals that have lost power.
To secure routes to bring large-scale heavy machinery to areas where houses and buildings have collapsed, personnel from the SDF, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism’s TEC-FORCE (Technical Emergency Control Force) and other related organizations are working night and day. While making every effort to quickly reopen damaged roads with minimum repairs, we are conducting safety checks at local ports to establish sea transport routes. As the tsunami warning was lifted a short while ago, at 10 a.m., we will make full-scale efforts to secure sea transport routes going forward.
Workers are currently on site to restore the disrupted power, water and communications.
To facilitate push-type transportation of supplies, we have made a request for cooperation from 16 related businesses, including operators of convenience stores and supermarkets, bedding companies and electronics mass retailers. We will ensure that water, energy, food, blankets, portable toilets and other supplies will be provided by carefully determining the needs of the affected people. To this end, I have given instructions to send senior officials from relevant ministries and agencies to the affected area by the end of the day.
With regards to my planned visit to Ise Jingu and New Year’s press conference on January 4, as we must remain vigilant of aftershocks with a maximum intensity of around seven for the next week or so, the visit will be postponed. The press conference will be held at the Prime Minister’s Office instead.
In areas where the tremors were strong, there are increasing risks of houses collapsing and landslides being triggered. As active seismic activities are expected to continue, I ask all residents to put safety first, by avoiding dangerous places for example. I also call for vigilance against possible aftershocks with a maximum intensity of around seven for the next week or so.
In the meantime, the dissemination of malicious false information regarding the status of damage and other related matters would never be acceptable. I strongly urge the public to refrain from such acts. That’s all from me at the outset.
(On the situation in the northern part of the Noto region, the scale of human damage and whether the Prime Minister has contacted the Governor of Ishikawa Prefecture)
Firstly, regarding the northern part of the Noto region, since immediately after the onset of the disaster, officials from organizations like local police, fire departments, the SDF, and the Japan Coast Guard have naturally been engaged in emergency rescue operations. In addition, the SDF spent all last night sending its personnel to the affected area by air and other means.
As I mentioned earlier, since the tsunami warning has been lifted, we can now secure sea transportation routes. In this way, efforts have been made since last night to send necessary supplies and rescue personnel not just by land but also by mobilizing all other means, including by air and by sea transportation route. As the day has dawned and we can now use the sea routes, we will intensify support to the affected area.
Regarding human casualties, as of 7 a.m. today, we have reports of four deaths, two deaths the relations of which to the disaster are under investigation, three serious injuries and 27 minor injuries.
Regarding whether I had contact with the Governor of Ishikawa Prefecture, I had repeated telephone talks with the Governor yesterday, immediately after the onset of the disaster. This morning again, we talked over the phone at around 6:30 this morning and had another telephone talk just before the meeting of the Emergency Headquarters beginning at 9 a.m. This coincided with the timing of a meeting of the emergency headquarters of Ishikawa Prefecture. We confirmed to remain in close contact with each other going forward to appropriately respond to situations surrounding local residents and their needs.
(On the scale of personnel engaged in rescue operations and how the routes will be secured for bringing heavy machinery into the affected area)
Regarding the number of rescue personnel engaged in the affected area, I have been informed that a total of 1,000 SDF members have arrived as of now. I have also been reported that excluding those from the local police, fire departments, SDF and Japan Coast Guard, a total of 634 officers of the Police Disaster Dispatch Unit and 2,039 belonging to the Emergency Fire Rescue Unit have arrived in the affected area from other regions. They have started to engage in their respective activities on site.
While we face an extreme difficulty in bringing heavy machinery into the affected area and other challenges due to local roads being cut off as you have just mentioned, I believe that transportation using sea routes and other means would naturally be options as we strive to reopen the damaged roads with urgent repairs to secure as many routes as possible. In any case, we will appropriately determine the situation in the affected area to come up with realistic and appropriate measures in response to local needs and in a speedy manner. The Government will make utmost efforts to provide assistance based on an appropriate understanding of the local situation.
(On the number of collapsed houses and damage of flood caused by tsunami, and the dispatch of senior officials from relevant ministries and agencies to the affected area)
I have already mentioned earlier the number of those who lost their lives and other casualties. As the day dawned, we spotted many collapsed houses and other damage, and we are taking necessary measures in response. We are currently identifying the damage, including collapsed houses and related human damage, and are compiling the figures. I have yet to receive the figures which I believe are currently under compilation.
As I mentioned earlier, we plan to send senior officials from relevant ministries and agencies to ensure push-type support through the collaboration among the relevant ministries and agencies, as well as collaboration with related businesses. As I understand that each mission area requires different scales of personnel, I would like to instruct relevant ministries and agencies to compile specific figures so that necessary personnel to the affected area as quickly as possible. I will instruct them to work on this immediately.
(On whether the Prime Minister plans to visit the affected area)
As the day has dawned, we are in the process of identifying the local situation. I believe that priority should be given to determining the local situation, and that my schedule, including a visit to the affected area, would have to be considered while appropriately identifying the local situation. With such matters in mind, we will continue to make efforts to determine the local situation.