At least 242 people are still missing in central Japan today, nearly four 24 hours after a devastating earthquake struck on New Year’s Day, according to the latest official tally from authorities in Ishikawa prefecture.

The authorities of the prefecture also raised the number of victims to 92 dead.

It is expected to get even heavier as search and rescue crews continue to search through the wreckage.

The 7.5-magnitude earthquake, which was felt as far as the capital Tokyo, more than 300 kilometers away in a straight line, hit hard on the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, a narrow strip of land stretching a hundred kilometers into the Sea of ​​Japan. It caused the collapse of dozens of buildings and destroyed many roads.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday called the earthquake “the most serious disaster” of the Leiua period, which began in 2019, when the current emperor ascended the throne.

The 72-hour window, considered the most critical for finding survivors after a natural disaster, closed on Thursday, and Ishikawa Governor Hiroshi Hase said he feared “the survival rate of people who need rescue will plummet.”

The port of Uajima, on the Noto Peninsula, is among the hardest hit cities. A musty smell continues to cover everything, as smoke still rises, no longer thick, from the giant fire that swept through hundreds of buildings after the earthquake.

The scenes in the city are heartbreaking: charred vehicles, destroyed buildings, fallen poles…

Japan, on the so-called ring of fire of the Pacific Ocean, is among the countries where many of the strongest earthquakes are recorded around the globe.

The country remains haunted by the terrifying 9-magnitude earthquake and giant tsunami of March 2011 off the country’s northeastern coast, a triple disaster that left some 20,000 dead and missing.

That earthquake and the resulting tsunami caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster, considered the worst in world history since Chernobyl (in present-day Ukraine) in 1986.