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2024 Japan Earthquake

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On the first day of 2024, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake was recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) near the northern coast of the Noto Peninsula on the west coast of Honshu, Japan. The Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) reported the earthquake as magnitude 7.6. According to USGS, it is not uncommon for agencies’ measurements to vary due to different sensors and methods. Dozens of aftershocks were also recorded.

The quake caused severe shaking in Nanao, with light shaking in Tokyo. The quake also prompted a tsunami of nearly three feet in Japan. JMA initially issued a major tsunami warning, the first since Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami, but eventually reduced it to an advisory. Two reactors at the Shika nuclear power plant on the Noto peninsula survived but experienced temporary power outages due to damage. William Frank at MIT described what set this earthquake apart from others, namely that the quake was not due to subduction but rather part of an “earthquake swarm.”

Wajima, a city in Ishikawa Prefecture, was among the areas most affected by the earthquake. Many of the city’s 23,000 residents heeded tsunami evacuation orders and fled. But the city still had most of the total number of casualties. Dramatic images showed the devastation in Wajima.

Seven weeks after the disaster, many survivors remained in limbo, living in evacuation shelters and unsure of their future, including whether the region will fully recover economically and culturally. Results from a survey released on March 18 showed about 30% of the residents in the cities of Wajima and Suzu, in Ishikawa Prefecture, were yet to return to their towns.

(Photo: Japan’s Self-Defense Forces look for survivors after the earthquake, Jan. 3, 2024. Credit: Ministry of Defense via X)

Earthquakes are among the most devastating natural hazards. Japan introduced regulations to protect buildings from earthquakes in 1981 and is renowned for its disaster preparedness. Japan’s investments, mandates and engineering practices adapted to seismic risk have saved lives during past earthquakes. However, many buildings in the affected areas may not have been built to withstand a strong earthquake. For example, many of Wajima’s traditional wooden homes collapsed.

While natural hazards, such as earthquakes, are inevitable, their impact on society is not. Disaster risk results from the interaction between a natural hazard, such as an earthquake, and the physical, economic, environmental or social characteristics that make people and communities exposed and vulnerable. For this reason, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy does not use the term “natural disaster” and instead refers to these events simply as a disaster. How we talk about disasters matters.

Lessons from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that occurred off the northeastern coast of Honshu, Japan’s main island, may have been applied during this disaster. An analysis of smartphone location data during the Jan. 1, 2024 quake shows about half of users began to evacuate within six to seven minutes of the initial quake. During the 2011 quake, it took residents more than twice as long to evacuate. Preparedness activities like drills and increasing awareness of what to do during disasters can minimize the impact.

Key facts
Critical infrastructure

Roads, utilities and buildings are examples of critical infrastructure that were damaged. Many roads were covered by landslides or suffered damage because of the quake, making it difficult for trucks delivering supplies to reach those in need during the initial response.

Many homes still did not have running water at the end of January 2024.


According to the Japanese Red Cross, more than 60,614 houses were damaged. That scale of damage will likely take years to rebuild and require significant financial resources.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Jan. 8 that more evacuation centers were needed. Kishida also said the government was working to find hotel rooms for evacuees. As of Feb. 16, more than 5,200 evacuees were housed at secondary evacuation sites south of Kanazawa.

Many facilities that hosted disaster survivors were starting to limit the length of stays in anticipation of an increase in tourism demand as the lodging and hotel sector tried to recover from the quake.

The Ishikawa Prefectural Government announced on Feb. 19 that it planned to establish temporary accommodations at Noto Airport. In addition to the airport, the government planned to set up temporary shelter facilities in six cities and towns.

Ishikawa Governor Hiroshi Hase said in that announcement, “The demand for lodging will increase due to the medium- to long-term dispatch of staffers and the start of fully fledged volunteer activities. It is important to secure and enhance these bases for rapid recovery.”


With damage to critical infrastructure and at least a temporary disruption to supply chains, food assistance will be needed until market systems are restored. With livelihoods also impacted, ongoing assistance for food and other basic needs will likely be needed into the recovery phase.

In a BBC report on Jan. 4, Shigeru Sakaguchi, mayor of Wajima, said food and other aid supplies had reached only 2,000 out of 10,000 evacuees from the town.


Ensuring the continuity of health care in disaster-affected areas is a critical need, given the damage to facilities and the challenges with access because of damage to some roads.

Following the earthquake, more than 10 facilities that provide care for older adults had ceased operations, exacerbating the strain on local health care services. There is a shortage of staff in these facilities as resignations increase due to staff managing their own recovery and familial responsibilities.

Housing and non-food items

With significant damage to the earthquake-affected area’s housing stock, disaster survivors reside with friends or family and in shelters. Ensuring survivors have access to safe shelter is critical in the immediate aftermath. The faster people can return home or find other permanent housing options, the more it will help accelerate their full recovery.

Snow and freezing temperatures meant that in addition to safe shelter, disaster survivors needed blankets, warm clothes and heaters. Survivors housing and non-food item needs will continue to evolve as the recovery continues.

Water, sanitation and hygiene

Many cities were without water the day after the earthquake.

The damaged infrastructure may take time to be fully restored, meaning alternative sources of water and sanitation services will be needed.

Residents of Nishiaraya, a village of 1,000 people on the outskirts of Kanazawa, reportedly had to brave the snow to collect drinking water.

Naoto Yamanaka, a Mainichi Shimbun reporter, said in February 2024 many shelters lacked flushable toilets. “Sanitary conditions were poor, as excrement overflowed, and the risk of infectious diseases was a concern. Even though food and water are crucial for survival, some people seemed to have been refraining from eating or drinking so that they do not need to use the toilets too often.”

Mental health and psychosocial support

Survivors of deadly earthquakes are forced to deal with lasting trauma, and the need for mental health and psychosocial support services increases.

According to Mark Lieber, who authored a 2017 study, “In the psychiatric literature, earthquakes have consistently been shown to be associated with mental health problems such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in the months and years immediately following the disaster.”

As summarized by Evidence Aid, the authors of a 2021 study that looked at post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among children and adolescents after earthquakes and floods suggested that rapid screening tests and continuous observation are needed for children and adolescents after disasters and that psychological support should be provided to them, especially girls.

CDP has a Global Recovery Fund that provides an opportunity for donors to meet the ongoing and ever-expanding challenges presented by global crises.

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Philanthropic contributions

If you have questions about donating to the CDP Global Recovery Fund, need help with your disaster-giving strategy or want to share how you’re responding to this disaster, please contact development.

(Photo: The 4th Company, 14th Infantry Regiment, 10th Division conducted a search for a missing person in Otani-cho, Suzu City, Japan. Credit: Ground Self-Defense Force Kanazawa Garrison via X)

Recovery updates

If you are a responding NGO, please send updates on how you are working on recovery from this disaster to Tanya Gulliver-Garcia.

We welcome the republication of our content. Please credit the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Philanthropic and government support

Japan is a wealthy country with the capacity to manage the emergency response and extensive experience responding to earthquake events.

According to an Associated Press report, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida deployed about 4,600 soldiers to provide earthquake survivors with water and food and set up bathing facilities at evacuation centers. The allocation of funds in February was meant in part for a subsidy system to help child-rearing families rebuild their homes.

On April 23, 2024, the government announced an additional $89 billion (¥138.9 billion) to support disaster-affected areas with temporary housing; restoration of public facilities; support for agriculture, fishery and forestry workers; and welfare and elderly care services. The latest announcement brings the government’s total spend to more than $2.57 billion (¥400 billion).

In an example of one government division helping another,  Miyagi Prefecture will support Ishikawa Prefecture with its “Higashi-Matsushima method” used in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. Miyagi sent staff with expertise in disaster waste disposal to the disaster-affected area.

In a statement released on Jan. 1, 2024, U.S. President Joe Biden said the U.S. “stands ready to provide any necessary assistance for the Japanese people.”

On Jan. 5, 2024, the U.S. said it was preparing military logistical support and aid for affected regions in Japan. Reportedly, Japan rejected offers for help from other countries, including China, as of Jan. 5, 2024. Then, on Jan. 16, 2024, the U.S. said it would deploy two helicopters to Ishikawa Prefecture’s disaster-affected areas of Noto Peninsula to help with relief operations.

More ways to help

As with most disasters, disaster experts recommend cash donations, which enable on-the-ground agencies to direct funds to the greatest area of need, support economic recovery and ensure donation management does not detract from disaster recovery needs.

CDP has also created a list of suggestions for funders to consider related to disaster giving. These include:

  • Take the long view: Even while focusing on immediate needs, remember that it will take some time for the full range of needs to emerge. Be patient in planning for disaster funding. Recovery will take a long time, and funding will be needed throughout.
  • Recognize there are places private philanthropy can help that government agencies might not: Private funders have opportunities to develop innovative solutions to help prevent or mitigate future disasters that the government cannot execute.
  • Prioritize investments in local organizations: Local leaders and organizations play a vital role in providing immediate relief and setting the course for long-term equitable recovery in communities after a disaster. However, these leaders and organizations are mostly under-resourced and underfunded. Grant to locally-led entities as much as possible.
  • All funders are disaster philanthropists: Even if your organization does not work in a particular geographic area or fund immediate relief efforts, you can look for ways to tie disaster funding into your existing mission. If you focus on education, health, children or vulnerable populations, disasters present prime opportunities for funding.
  • Ask the experts: If you are considering supporting an organization that is positioned to work in an affected area, do some research. CDP and InterAction can provide resources and guidance about organizations working in affected communities.

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Critical Infrastructure and Systems

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Critical Infrastructure and Systems (CIS) are the structures people rely on to perform their everyday tasks. They are what keep people, goods and information moving around the world while also keeping people safe and healthy.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

Water is one of the most necessary elements for life, yet according to the World Health Organization/UNICEF, 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water. In addition, 4.5 billion people lack safely-managed sanitation facilities. Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) principles are of tremendous concern in everyday life, but can be heightened during an emergency or disaster.