Multiple cases of damage and injuries have been reported after strong earthquakes rocked Japan’s western coast on Monday amidst the country’s New Year celebrations, triggering tsunami warnings and evacuation orders in several prefectures.
The series of strong earthquakes with major ones of up to a preliminary 7.6 magnitude have been hitting a wide area on the Sea of Japan coast in central Japan since Monday afternoon, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).
According to the JMA, among the quakes, the major temblor occurred at 4:10 p.m. local time (0710 GMT) at a shallow depth, registering a maximum 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale on the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture. The JMA has officially named it the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake.
There were six cases of people being buried alive after houses collapsed, reported in Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture, where a large-scale fire also broke out following the quake, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi told an emergency press conference.
Hayashi noted that a fire broke out in a transformer at the Hokuriku Electric Power Company’s Shika nuclear power station in Ishikawa Prefecture, adding that the fire had been extinguished and there was no impact on the nuclear power plant, following his earlier statement that no damage had been detected at nuclear power plants after the massive earthquake.
According to local authorities, two women were taken to hospitals after falling or being hit by falling objects in Awara, Fukui prefecture. A woman in her 80s in Itoigawa, Niigata prefecture, fell while evacuating and suffered a head injury.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida urged relevant ministries and agencies to assess the earthquake damage as soon as possible, ensure the safety of the public, rescue any victims, and provide appropriate information to the public.
Ishikawa Governor Hiroshi Hase has asked the Self-Defense Forces to send members on a disaster relief mission, Hayashi said.
Latest local media reports showed that multiple cases of mudslides as well as road collapses have been reported in several cities including Niigata.
Multiple roads and houses in Ishikawa Prefecture were damaged following the strong quakes, and many houses collapsed in Noto region and Hakui city in the prefecture, with approximately 32,500 homes losing power.
In Ishikawa’s Kanazawa city, video footages taken by passengers showed rocking temblors experienced on a local train platform and train coaches.
The torii gate of a shrine in Kanazawa collapsed due to the earthquakes, with no injuries reported in the surrounding area, according to the national news agency Kyodo.
On Monday, All Nippon Airways announced that a total of 16 flights departing from and arriving at Shonai, Niigata, Noto, and Komatsu airports on the day would be canceled due to the earthquakes, affecting about 1,450 people.
Japan Airlines also canceled a total of nine flights departing from and arriving at Niigata and Komatsu airports. Approximately 730 people were affected.
East Japan Railway Company suspended all Shinkansen services on the Joetsu and Hokuriku lines throughout Ishikawa Prefecture. There is currently no prospect for resumption of operations, according to sources.
Earlier in the day, the JMA issued tsunami warnings for a broad swath of the western coast, including Ishikawa, Fukui, Niigata, Toyama, Yamagata and other prefectures, following the strong earthquakes, including a major tsunami warning issued for Ishikawa prefecture.
It was the first time the major tsunami warning was issued since 2011 earthquake in northeastern Japan. Major tsunami warning is issued when tsunami of 3 meters or more are expected.
Ishikawa, where the epicenter of the major quake was located, observed tsunami waves of more than 1.2 meters at 4:21 p.m. local time. Toyama Prefecture reported tsunami waves of 50 centimeters at 4:23 p.m. local time, local media reports said.
Torrents of water could reach as high as 5 meters and authorities had urged people to flee to high land or a top of a nearby building as quickly as possible, according to the public broadcaster NHK.
Central Japan may experience earthquakes with maximum intensity on its seven-tier scale system in the coming week, the JMA said during a briefing Monday afternoon, urging people in the area to stay vigilant for the possible strong tremors. ■