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Pope Francis prays for people in quake-hit Japan

Dozens of aftershocks continued to be reported and could pose additional dangers, according to seismologists
Firefighters conduct rescue operations in the city of Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture on Jan. 3 after a major 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Noto region in Ishikawa prefecture on New Year's Day.

Firefighters conduct rescue operations in the city of Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture on Jan. 3 after a major 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Noto region in Ishikawa prefecture on New Year's Day. (Photo: AFP)

Published: January 03, 2024 05:03 AM GMT
Updated: January 03, 2024 05:07 AM GMT

Pope Francis prayed for all those affected by a devastating earthquake in Japan, offering encouragement to emergency crews who were assisting victims and searching for survivors under the rubble.

As the official death toll from the quake reached 48 people, the pope prayed for the people of Japan's Ishikawa prefecture, expressing his sadness and "blessings of consolation and strength" in a telegram sent by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, Jan. 2.

"He assures everyone affected by this disaster of his heartfelt solidarity and spiritual closeness, and prays especially for the dead, those who mourn their loss and for the rescue of any persons still missing," the telegram said.

"The Holy Father offers encouragement to the civil authorities and emergency personnel as they assist the victims of this tragedy," it said.

Officials said at least 48 people were killed after an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6 struck Japan's western coast near the Noto Peninsula on Jan. 1 around 4 p.m. local time. Dozens of aftershocks continued to be reported on Jan. 2 and could pose additional dangers, according to seismologists.

Rescue workers searched for survivors under collapsed and burnt buildings. Many roads were severely damaged or obstructed by landslides, affecting rescue, aid, and evacuation efforts. Five Coast Guard personnel were killed after their aircraft carrying aid collided with a Japan Airlines passenger jet at Tokyo's Haneda airport on Jan. 2. All 379 people on board the commercial plane survived.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said emergency rescue teams were doing their "utmost to save lives and rescue victims and survivors, but we have received reports that there are still many people waiting to be rescued under collapsed buildings," according to Reuters Jan. 2.

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