Search and relief operations continued Sunday under rainy skies six days after a powerful earthquake struck the Noto Peninsula in central Japan while the government is bolstering efforts to reach communities isolated by severed roads.

The death toll from the magnitude-7.6 quake that hit on New Year's Day reached 128 on Sunday while 195 people remain unaccounted for, Ishikawa Prefecture said.

Quake-hit area in Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture, is lightly covered with snow on Jan. 7, 2024, six days after the powerful earthquake struck central Japan. (Kyodo)

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed relevant ministers during a meeting of the disaster response headquarters to restore access to isolated communities as soon as possible by fixing damaged roads, rescuing people by helicopter, and delivering relief goods on foot, among other efforts.

Around 2,300 people in the prefecture are isolated mainly due to severed roads, the prefectural government revealed.

Kishida also said a water shortage in the disaster-hit area is a severe problem, requesting that the ministers gather as many water trucks as possible from across the country to ensure an adequate water supply for the people in the area.

Police officers are engaged in search and rescue operations near the site of a market in Wajima in Ishikawa Prefecture on Jan. 7, 2024, after the famous tourist spot burned down in a fire that broke out following a strong earthquake that jolted the central Japan prefecture and surrounding areas on Jan. 1. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Before the meeting, Kishida emphasized on a television program by public broadcaster NHK that he intends to pursue an augmentation of the 500-billion-yen ($3.5 billion) reserve fund, already designated in the draft budget for fiscal 2024 and direct funds toward the recovery efforts in the quake-hit area.

Defense Minister Minoru Kihara told reporters the number of Self-Defense Forces members working in the disaster-stricken area had been increased to about 5,900 from 5,500.

A local weather agency predicted that weather conditions will deteriorate from the evening in the prefecture's Kaga and Noto areas, with precipitation of 50 millimeters forecast in the 24 hours through 6 a.m. Monday. Twenty-five centimeters of snow is also predicted in some areas through Monday morning.

The prefectural government plans to temporarily close major roads in case of heavy snow accumulation, potentially hindering the delivery of relief goods to those affected by the disaster.

Over 28,000 people are staying in shelters, according to local authorities.

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