NIIGATA – Rescue operations to save three people trapped in a buried car in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, ended without a second miracle Thursday after a 3-year-old girl was confirmed dead.
Mayu Minagawa had been in the car with her mother, Takako, 39, and 2-year-old brother, Yuta, when their car was buried in a landslide triggered by Saturday’s earthquakes.
On Wednesday, Yuta was pulled out alive, but their mother was found dead.
Hopes of also finding Mayu alive were dashed when doctors from the Ground Self-Defense Force and Niigata University pronounced her dead Thursday afternoon. The doctors said that she appeared to have died almost instantly from suffocation.
Rescue workers said the girl was trapped deep in the rear of the car. They initially saw one of her legs, but after clearing away mud and debris, a GSDF doctor could not get a response.
Rescuers worked through Wednesday night to get the girl out — in temperatures as low as 5 in Nagaoka — but were unable to pull her from the vehicle. They left the site in the late afternoon, and officials said they would discuss the best way to retrieve the body.
The car was buried in Nagaoka on a steep slope covered in large rocks at a point where the road had completely collapsed. The rescue work was also dangerous due to the numerous aftershocks.
The deaths of the little girl and two others — Etsuko Nozawa, a 48-year-old housewife in the town of Kawanishi in Niigata and Matsuno Sato, an 84-year-old resident in Hirokami — brought the total of quake-related deaths to 35 by Thursday evening.
According to local police, Nozawa, who had taken shelter with her family inside a car parked in front of their home, suddenly fell to the ground after getting out of the vehicle and was rushed to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.
The police said Nozawa had been suffering fatigue and stress since the family evacuated their home.
They said Sato died at a hospital due to heart failure under similar circumstances.
With Niigata entering its sixth day Thursday since the first temblors devastated the area, an estimated 98,300 evacuees in the prefecture experienced a further drop in temperatures in the morning while people waited for temporary housing to be completed.
U.S. offers help Staff report The United States has offered to provide plastic sheeting for earthquake victims in Niigata Prefecture, Japanese government officials said Thursday.
The U.S. military in Japan has responded to a Niigata Prefectural Government request for waterproof sheets that can be used to temporarily repair quake-hit homes, they said.
Powerful earthquakes and aftershocks have hit Niigata since Saturday, leaving tens of thousands in evacuation centers.
Airmen from the 374th Airlift Wing of the 5th Air Force at Yokota Air Base flew to Niigata on Thursday afternoon to deliver the supplies to the prefectural government, they said.
The U.S. government has also donated $50,000 toward earthquake victims, with the money having already been transferred to the coffers of the prefectural government, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told a regular news conference.
In a related move, South Korea said Wednesday that it would donate $100,000 to help quake victims.
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