The Japanese government on Thursday designated a powerful earthquake that rocked Ishikawa Prefecture and other parts of central Japan on New Year's Day a "disaster of extreme severity," boosting subsidies for reconstruction work in affected communities.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's government aims to expand its financial support for local authorities to implement measures such as the speedy reconstruction of roads and farmland following the magnitude-7.6 quake that left 213 people dead and 37 unaccounted for.

Improving the living conditions of the victims and addressing their health needs has become an urgent task.

A man cycles in Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture, on Jan. 11, 2024, after the city was severely hit by the massive earthquake on Jan. 1. (Kyodo)

The death toll includes eight people who are believed to have died due to the deterioration of their health following the quake, in some cases because of stress associated with evacuation.

In a related move, the Ishikawa prefectural government on Thursday launched a body to implement measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in evacuation centers.

According to the health ministry, as of Tuesday, around 70 cases of respiratory diseases such as COVID-19 and influenza had been reported, and around 40 cases of gastrointestinal illnesses, including norovirus infections.

A total of about 24,000 people were staying in 400 evacuation centers set up by cities and towns, as well as in facilities located in less affected zones as of Thursday, following the Jan. 1 quake that registered a maximum 7 on the country's seismic intensity scale.

Local authorities are speeding up efforts to move evacuees to more comfortable accommodations, including hotels and Japanese-style ryokan inns in and outside the prefecture, as electricity and water supplies remain disrupted in some areas amid the cold weather.

Elderly people wrap themselves up in blankets at a nursery home in Nanao in central Japan's Ishikawa Prefecture on Jan. 11, 2024, after the heating system stopped working following a strong earthquake on Jan. 1. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

The Ishikawa prefectural government is also seeking the help of nearby prefectures to accept seniors staying in disaster-stricken elder care facilities with no heat and no running water.

On Thursday, 30 elderly residents requiring care were airlifted from Suzu, the hardest-hit city located at the tip of the Noto Peninsula, to an airport in Aichi Prefecture by helicopter before being transported to hospitals.

The land ministry said that as of Wednesday, it had secured around 6,500 public housing units nationwide for evacuees to move into immediately.

Over 2,500 residents remain cut off due to severed roads, primarily in Wajima on the Sea of Japan coast in Ishikawa Prefecture, while approximately 57,000 households in various cities, including Wajima and Suzu, have no water supply, according to the prefectural government.

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