Japan has struggled to make water pipes resistant to earthquakes across the country despite the frequent occurrence of water outages that last months following such disasters, which makes it hard for residents to rebuild their lives.

In Ishikawa Prefecture, where a massive quake struck on New Year's Day, over 50,000 homes are still without water. Water outages continue in almost all areas of six municipalities, including the cities of Suzu and Wajima.

According to the health ministry, around 1.3 million homes were left without water in the aftermath of a powerful quake that hit Kobe and surrounding areas in western Japan in 1995. Water outages in the areas continued for up to three months.

In the 2011 quake and tsunami in northeastern Japan, water outages affected around 2.56 million homes, with the issue left unresolved for up to five months.

The ministry revised an ordinance in 2008 to promote efforts to make water supply-related equipment quake-proof.

But only 41.2% of key water pipes met quake-proof standards on a national average as of the end of fiscal 2021. The government aims to raise the figure to 60% or higher by the end of fiscal 2028.

By prefecture, the proportion was 73.1% in Kanagawa, the highest, as of the end of fiscal 2021, but was below 30% in Akita and eight other prefectures. Ishikawa had 36.8%.

At evacuation shelters in Ishikawa, water outages pose risks of infectious diseases and deaths from indirect causes related to the quake.

On Monday, 90 cases of acute respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19, and 15 cases of gastrointestinal infectious diseases, including norovirus infection, were confirmed at evacuation shelters and other locations in Ishikawa, according to the prefectural government.

Health minister Keizo Takemi has urged people to take precautionary measures, such as mask-wearing, hand-washing and ventilation.