Noto Peninsula Earthquake
Call for Emergency Aid

Our hearts and minds at Habitat Japan are with those whose lives and homes were lost to the Noto Peninsula earthquake, which struck on New Year's Day 2024. It is our sincere hope that all those affected by the disaster may return to a safe and decent life as soon as possible.

Following an initial survey conducted by a Habitat Japan team dispatched to the disaster area from January 12, we have finalized plans to provide disaster aid to the Monzen-machi area in Wajima City.

The Noto Peninsula quake caused extensive damage to roadways and infrastructure in a very wide area. Two weeks after the disaster, electricity has been restored in several areas, water infrastructure has yet to be restored. As of now, those still evacuated from their unsafe or destroyed homes are forced to rely on supplies of bottled water to meet all of their daily needs.

Wajima City, where Habitat Japan has decided to provide support, is located in the northern part of the Noto Peninsula and consists of districts of Wajima-machi and Monzen-machi with a combined population of 23,000. Monzen-machi is a particularly underpopulated and aged community, home to only about 20% of Wajima City's population. Many of the homes in the area are old constructions that either partially or fully collapsed during the quake, forcing over half of the Monzen-machi population to continue evacuating. Many of those with children or who are lucky enough to have family in neighboring areas have gone to them and are evacuated outside of the city, leaving the very elderly population making up the vast majority of those still evacuating in the nearly 20 evacuation shelters in Monzen-machi. Due to the thinly spread population in depopulated Monzen-machi combined with restricted traffic conditions, the area is lacking in both relief supplies and staff.

Most people currently living in evacuation shelters expressed their wish to stay there until temporary shelters become available, making these shelters a temporary but extremely important home.  Habitat Japan will work to provide disaster response as well as to continually search for methods to allow for a return to a safe and decent life for those affected as soon as possible. Our first response is to link with partner organizations in the area to meet emergency needs, improve shelters, and offer cleanup and other support that elderly residents require in the wake of this disaster.

 

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    Monzen-machi, Wajima City Survey Report(January 1st-13th, 2024)

    Many of the numerous wooden houses in Monzen-machi, Wajima City, Ishikawa Prefecture were damaged or destroyed by the devastating magnitude 6 earthquake. This same district was also heavily affected by a Noto Peninsula quake in 2007, but most of the old homes lucky enough to survive the first time were destroyed this time around.

    One evacuation shelter in Monzen-machi visited during our survey was comprised of 7 rooms throughout three floors including a large hall, Japanese-style rooms, and meetings rooms. A total of 82 people were evacuating there.  We did not see any children there, mostly elderly people appearing to be in their 70’s, 80’s, and above. In harsh winter conditions and without electricity, COVID and influenza were spreading through the facility, and many medical corps were hurriedly moving in and out of the shelter. Due to these unfavorable conditions, some elected not to evacuate to sleep in the shelter and instead to sleep in their cars every night

    Visiting the shelter, we saw roughly ten people in a room living on top of flatten cardboard boxes or mats on the floor. Despite two weeks passing since the initial quakes, we saw many people huddled together around kerosene heaters to stay warm. Those living in the shelter were familiar with one another as longtime neighbors, and we were told that when the electricity came back on they all cheered together. When we asked about what comes next, many told us that they would like to remain at the shelter until temporary housing becomes available. We could tell that people held strong bonds with the place they lived, no matter how damaged.

    When we asked around about what volunteers could do to help, residents told us that they want to cover their homes with tarps to protect them from further damage from the elements and even start cleaning up their damaged homes, but they aren't able to do so alone. When disaster strikes, buildings must be put through an emergency safety evaluation. Through this evaluation, experts label homes with one of "Unsafe”, “Limited Entry”, or “Inspected” and dictate whether or not it is safe to enter. Being the vast district it is, these inspections are taking time and we were unable to find any inspected homes: only those destroyed and vulnerable to wind and snow. Taking in to account the state of roadways and other infrastructure as well as the backlog of emergency safety evaluations, we still do not know when volunteering will be safe and feasible. At Habitat Japan we will do everything in our power to lend an ear and be there to address the needs of evacuees while working to facilitate reconstruction as soon as possible.

    Transporting supplies from the NGO Collaboration Center to a temple in the Monzen-machi district and surveying needs in evacuation shelters there. The streets were lined with old buildings and very few people were out.

    At a shelter in Monzen-machi, a member of Habitat Japan's team (a certified physical therapist) led the elderly residents in stretching exercises. One resident told us "before the quake I stretched every day! I'm happy to have a chance to again", highlighting the importance of a refreshing activity in the midst of difficult times. We also helped the Shanti Volunteer Association make and serve meals for almost 300 people. One grateful diner told us "This is the first warm meal I've had since New Year's Day!", and everyone happily devoured their soup and rice.

    Related Articles:
    Report #1: Supporting the Monzen-machi District in Wajima City
    Report #2:Covering the Homes of the Elderly
    Report #3: Distributing Sleeping Mats to Evacuees
    Noto Peninsula Earthquake Report: Building Consultations and Emergency Measures for Damaged Houses

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