Japan quake death toll now stands at 62

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The death toll from a massive earthquake that struck Japan on New Years Day rose to 62 on Wednesday as authorities rushed to bring aid to survivors facing freezing temperatures and heavy rain forecast for later in the day.

The quake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.6 struck the Noto peninsula on Monday afternoon, levelling houses and cutting off remote areas from much-needed aid.

Heavy rains were forecast in the quake-hit areas on Wednesday, raising fears of landslides, authorities said.

Severed roads, damaged infrastructure, and the remote location of the hardest-hit areas have complicated rescue efforts and the full extent of damage and casualties remains unclear two days after the quake.

Authorities confirmed 62 deaths so far, up from 55 late on Tuesday.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed his government to ensure survivors have access to basic amenities including electricity and water.

“Please do everything in your power to rescue as many people as possible, while keeping in mind that this is also a battle against time,” Kishida said during a disaster response meeting.

He said survivors may be unable to return home for some time.