idoamebo – Japan was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami on Monday, causing widespread damage and disruption to millions of people.
The quake, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, was one of the strongest to ever strike the country, and triggered a series of powerful waves that swept across the west coast and neighbouring South Korea.
Tsunami warnings and evacuations
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) issued tsunami warnings for three prefectures along the Sea of Japan: Ishikawa, Niigata and Toyama.
A major tsunami warning, the highest level of alert, was initially issued for Ishikawa, but was later downgraded to a regular warning.
The JMA warned that larger waves could follow the initial ones, which reached about 1 metre in height.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida urged people in the affected areas to evacuate as soon as possible, saying that the situation was “extremely serious”.
He also said that the government was doing everything possible to respond to the disaster and protect the lives and property of the people.
“Tsunami! Evacuate!” a bright yellow warning flashed across television screens, advising residents in specific areas of the coast to immediately evacuate their homes.
Many people fled to higher ground or sought shelter in public buildings, while others stayed behind to check on their homes and belongings.
Destruction and Casualties
The quake struck at 2:28 p.m. local time, with its epicentre located in Ishikawa prefecture, about 300 km northwest of Tokyo.
The quake was felt across a wide area of central and eastern Japan, shaking buildings and rattling windows.
The quake caused severe damage to many buildings and infrastructure, especially in the coastal towns of Wajima and Suzu in Ishikawa.
Local media reported that at least 30 buildings collapsed in Wajima, a town of around 30,000 people known for its lacquerware, and that a large fire broke out in several buildings.
In Suzu, a city of about 15,000 people, a building was seen collapsing in a cloud of dust, and a huge crack appeared in a road.
Government spokesperson Yoshimasa Hayashi said that houses were destroyed, fires had broken out and army personnel had been dispatched to help with rescue operations.
He added that authorities were still assessing the damage and the number of casualties.
The extent of any injuries and deaths was unclear, but public broadcaster NHK reported that two people recovered from quake debris in Ishikawa prefecture were unresponsive.
NHK also said that more than 100 people were injured in the quake, mostly in Ishikawa and Toyama.
Power and Transport Disruptions
The quake also disrupted power and transport services in the affected regions, leaving tens of thousands of people without electricity, phone or internet access.
According to Hokuriku Electric Power, more than 36,000 households had lost power in Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures, where temperatures were expected to drop to near freezing overnight.
Telecoms operators also reported phone and internet outages in some areas.
The quake also affected the transport network, forcing the closure of six expressways and the suspension of 40 train lines and two high-speed rail services to the quake-hit area.
One of Ishikawa’s airports, Noto Airport, was forced to shut due to a crack in the runway, while two major airlines, ANA and Japan Airlines, cancelled or diverted most of their flights to and from Toyama and Ishikawa.
Nuclear Plants Unaffected
The quake came at a sensitive time for Japan’s nuclear industry, which has faced fierce opposition from some locals since a 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima.
Nearly 20,000 people were killed and whole towns devastated in the disaster, which was the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
Japan last week lifted an operational ban imposed on the world’s biggest nuclear plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, which has been offline since the 2011 tsunami.
The plant, located in Niigata prefecture, is about 200 km from the epicentre of Monday’s quake.
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said no irregularities have been confirmed at nuclear power plants along the Sea of Japan.
Including five active reactors at Kansai Electric Power’s Ohi and Takahama plants in Fukui Prefecture.
Hokuriku’s Shika plant in Ishikawa, the closest nuclear power station to the quake’s epicentre, had already halted its two reactors before the quake due to safety inspections.
More Quakes Possible
The JMA said that the quake was part of a series of seismic activity that has been occurring in the area for more than three years, and that more strong quakes could occur over the coming days.
The JMA official Toshihiro Shimoyama said that the quake was likely caused by the movement of a fault line that runs along the Sea of Japan.
The JMA also said that the quake was not related to the 2011 quake that struck northeastern Japan, which was caused by a different fault line that runs along the Pacific Ocean.
The JMA urged people to stay alert and follow the instructions of local authorities, and to be prepared for possible landslides, aftershocks and further tsunamis.