The Guardian

Race against time after deadly Japan earthquake



Japanese rescue teams on Tuesday battled time and powerful aftershocks to find survivors of a massive earthquake that struck on New Year's Day, killing at least 30 people and causing widespread destruction.

The magnitude 7.5 earthquake that hit Ishikawa Prefecture on Honshu triggered a tsunami more than 1 meter high, destroyed buildings, caused massive fires and destroyed roads.

As night fell, the scale of the damage on the Noto Peninsula became clear: buildings were still burning, homes were destroyed, fishing boats were sunk or washed ashore, and highways were hit by landslides.

“It was a very strong tremor,” Tsugumasa Mihara, 73, who was queuing for water with hundreds of others in the shocked town of Shiga, told AFP.

“What a terrible start to the year,” he said.

Local authorities put the death toll at 30, half of them in Wajima, but the number was expected to rise.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said after the disaster response meeting, “Very extensive damage was confirmed, including numerous casualties, collapsed buildings, and fires.''

“Searching and rescuing victims is a race against time.”

Aerial news footage showed the terrifying scale of the fire that hit the city of Wajima, with a seven-story commercial building also collapsing.

About 33,000 households in the region were without power, and nighttime temperatures reached below freezing, according to a local energy company. Many cities did not have running water.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) announced that the earthquake had a magnitude of 7.5. Japan's meteorological agency put its reading at 7.6 and said it was one of more than 150 earthquakes that rocked the region until Tuesday morning.

Several strong tremors were felt early Tuesday, including one measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale, prompting state broadcaster NHK to switch to a special program.

“Please take a deep breath,” the host said, reminding viewers to check for fire in the kitchen.

~Tsunami warning canceled~
Waves at least 1.2 meters (4 feet) high hit Wajima on Monday, and a series of smaller tsunamis were reported elsewhere.

Warnings of even larger waves proved unfounded, and Japan canceled all tsunami warnings on Tuesday.

Images on social media showed cars, homes and bridges in Ishikawa prefecture shaking violently as frightened people huddled in shops and train stations.

Houses were destroyed, large cracks appeared in roads, and some areas were hit by landslides.

Television footage showed firefighters crawling under a collapsed commercial building in the city of Wajima, searching for survivors.

“Good luck! Good luck,” he shouted as he used a power saw to plow through a pile of wooden beams.

Dozens of buildings were gutted by the Wajima fire, and video footage showed people fleeing in the dark, some clutching blankets and some carrying babies.

NHK reported that 25 houses collapsed in the city, with people possibly trapped in 14 of them.

An official on duty at the Wajima Fire Department said authorities remained overwhelmed with calls for help and damage reports on Tuesday.

Ishikawa Prefectural Governor Hiroshi Hase posted on X (formerly Twitter) that roads were cut off in large areas by landslides and cracks, and “multiple” ships capsized at Suzu Port.

According to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, a total of 62,000 people were given evacuation orders.

According to the Defense Ministry, about 1,000 people were staying at the military base.

~Shinkansen suspension~
Defense Minister Minoru Kihara said that 1,000 military personnel were preparing to depart for the area, and the remaining 8,500 were on standby. Approximately 20 military aircraft were dispatched to investigate the damage.

Monday's earthquake shook an apartment building in the capital, Tokyo, about 300 kilometers away, and canceled a public New Year's greeting event scheduled to be attended by Emperor Naruhito and his family.

According to Japan's road authorities, several major expressways were closed near the epicenter, and bullet trains from Tokyo were also suspended.

About 500 people were stranded at Noto's damaged airport, the access road was blocked and the runway was riddled with cracks.

About 1,000 people remained trapped inside the trains for almost 24 hours after local express trains were stopped on Monday, NHK said.

Hundreds of earthquakes occur in Japan each year, but the majority do not cause damage.

According to a Japanese government report last year, the number of earthquakes in the Noto Peninsula region has been steadily increasing since 2018.

Japan has been suffering from a massive 9.0-magnitude undersea earthquake that occurred off the coast of the Tohoku region in 2011, causing a tsunami that left approximately 18,500 people dead or missing.

The Fukushima nuclear power plant was also flooded, causing one of the world's worst nuclear disasters.

Japan's nuclear authority said no abnormalities were reported at the Shiga nuclear power plant in Ishikawa Prefecture or other power plants after Monday's earthquake.

Source: guardian.ng

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