An elderly woman trapped in a house destroyed by a huge earthquake in central Japan was found and rescued by a search dog, the defence minister has said.
The dog, named Jennifer, is one of the specially trained canines deployed to the regions hardest hit by the magnitude-7.5 quake that struck on New Year’s Day.
They have joined thousands of troops and firefighters in the desperate search for survivors on the Sea of Japan coast.
“The Self-Defence Forces had rescued 122 people by yesterday, including an elderly woman in a house in Wajima City, who was found and rescued by a search dog (Jennifer),” Defence Minister Minoru Kihara wrote on X.
“Today, which is a crucial day, the number of personnel will be increased to approximately 4,600,” he added.
At least 84 people have been confirmed dead after the earthquake and a series of strong aftershocks, with 79 others listed as missing by local authorities.
Hope is fading for other successful rescues, however, as the third day of the desperate hunt draws to a close.
Monday’s earthquake toppled tall buildings and flattened homes, triggering major landslides and tsunami waves over one metre high.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a press conference that the quake is “the worst catastrophe” in the current imperial Reiwa era in the Japanese calendar, which began in 2019.
“Access to this area was extremely difficult, partly due to the geographical constraints of the affected area being a peninsula, and partly due to the intermittent occurrence of major quakes,” he said.
“The situation remains difficult, but we will continue to do our utmost to support the victims.”
The powerful main tremor, followed by hundreds of aftershocks, injured at least 330 people, local authorities said.
With hundreds sleeping in emergency shelters, further scenes of destruction were seen by AFP in the coastal towns of Anamizu and Wajima, including burnt-out cars in a market area ravaged by fire.
Thousands of soldiers, firefighters and police officers from across Japan, assisted by sniffer dogs, combed through the rubble of collapsed wooden houses and toppled commercial buildings for signs of life.