People buried alive, houses destroyed: Powerful Japan earthquake leaves behind a trail of destruction

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JANUARY 1, 2024

A building falls on the ground following an earthquake in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. A series of major earthquakes started a fire and collapsed buildings on the west coast of Japan’s main island, Honshu. (Kyodo News via AP)

NEW DELHI: A massive earthquake rocked Central Japan that triggered tsunami warning, widespread destruction to buildings, cutting off power to tens of thousands of households, and compelling coastal residents to seek refuge in higher areas.

The quake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.6 triggered waves of about 1 metre along Japan’s west coast and neighbouring South Korea, with authorities saying larger waves could follow.

Here are the latest developments:Residents told to run

Japanese authorities put the magnitude at 7.6 and said that it was one of more than 50 quakes of 3.2 magnitude or more to rock the region on the New Year’s Day holiday — when families get together and visit shrines — over several hours.

Television channels interrupted normal services with special programming including of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida urging people in danger areas to “evacuate as soon as possible” to higher ground.

“We realise your home, your belongings are all precious to you, but your lives are important above everything else! Run to the highest ground possible,” an alarmed presenter on broadcaster NHK told viewers.

6 cases of people being buried alive

Six cases of people buried alive due to the collapse of buildings as a result of the earthquakes have been reported, chief cabinet secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said on Monday at the emergency press conference, the Japan News reported.

Some people around the building were calling out to their family members to “hang on,” while waiting for rescue.

Tsunami warning lowered

Japan dropped its highest-level tsunami alert, issued following a series of major earthquakes on Monday, but told residents of coastal areas not to return to their homes as deadly waves could still come.

The agency initially issued a major tsunami warning for Ishikawa and lower-level tsunami warnings or advisories for the rest of the western coast of the island of Honshu, as well as the northernmost of its main islands, Hokkaido.

The warning was downgraded to a regular tsunami several hours later, meaning the waters could still reach up to 3 metres (10 feet). Aftershocks could also slam the same area over the next few days, it said.

Over 32,000 homes in Ishikawa prefecture face power outages

Following the impactful earthquake and subsequent aftershocks, over 32,500 households in Japan’s Ishikawa prefecture are currently facing power outages.

The Japan PM Office also issued instructions amid the pressing situation.It asked the officials to provide timely and accurate information to the public regarding the tsunami and evacuation and take thorough measures to prevent damage, such as the evacuation of residents. “Assess the state of affairs regarding damage as soon as possible,” it said.

The Japan PM Office further asked the officials to act in close coordination with local governments and under the principle of prioritising human life above all else.

North and South Korea brace for tsunami

A tsunami measuring under one metre (3.3 ft) reached South Korea’s east coast in the wake of earthquake that hit Japan, which added there may be more and larger waves in the next hours.

The first tsunami to reach South Korea’s coast was 67 cm (2.2 ft) but it may increase in size after the initial waves and may continue for more than 24 hours, the meteorological agency had said.

Separately, North Korea issued tsunami warnings for its coast of possible waves of more than 2 metres, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported, citing the North’s state radio.

Total of 21 quakes above 4.0 magnitude hit Japan

A succession of 21 earthquakes registering 4.0 magnitude or stronger struck central Japan in just over 90 minutes on Monday, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The strongest jolt measured 7.6, it said. The quakes prompted tsunami warnings and authorities urged people in the area to move to higher ground.

Scores of houses destroyed

Houses have been destroyed, fires have broken out and army personnel have been dispatched to help with rescue operations, government spokesperson Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters, adding that authorities were still assessing the damage.

One elderly man was pronounced dead after a building collapse in Shika Town in Ishikawa, broadcaster NTV reported citing local police.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters he had instructed search and rescue teams to do everything possible to rescue lives, even though access to quake-hit areas is difficult due to blocked roads.


Courtesy: TOI / PTI