Japanese rescuers are working tirelessly to find survivors in the aftermath of a major earthquake that struck on New Year’s Day.
With a magnitude of 7.5, the quake hit Ishikawa prefecture on the main island of Honshu, causing significant damage and claiming the lives of at least 20 people.
The earthquake triggered tsunami waves over a meter high, resulting in further devastation. Buildings were toppled, fires broke out, and roads were torn apart.
As daylight arrived, the true scale of the destruction on the Noto Peninsula became evident. Smoldering buildings, flattened houses, sunken fishing boats, and highways affected by landslides painted a grim picture.
Survivors queued for water in the town of Shika, expressing their shock and grief. Tsugumasa Mihara, 73, described the earthquake as a “powerful jolt” and lamented the terrible start to the year. While the official death toll stands at six, it is expected to rise. The port city of Wajima was particularly hard-hit, with 15 reported deaths.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida acknowledged the extensive damage and numerous casualties, emphasizing the need to search for and rescue victims.
Aerial footage revealed the devastation caused by a major fire in Wajima, where a seven-storey commercial building collapsed. Additionally, almost 45,000 households were left without power, and many cities were without running water.
The US Geological Survey recorded the earthquake as a magnitude 7.5, while Japan’s meteorological agency measured it as 7.6. Over 150 aftershocks were felt in the region throughout Tuesday morning, with one measuring 5.6 prompting national broadcaster NHK to switch to a special program. Despite initial warnings of larger tsunamis, Japan lifted all tsunami alerts on Tuesday.
Social media was flooded with images and videos capturing the violent shaking of cars and houses in Ishikawa.
Terrified individuals sought refuge in shops and train stations, witnessing the collapse of buildings and the appearance of massive cracks in roads. Firefighters in Wajima battled through debris to rescue trapped individuals, while a fire engulfed numerous structures.
Rescue efforts were further hampered by road closures due to landslides and cracking. In the port of Suzu, multiple vessels capsized.
Authorities ordered the evacuation of 62,000 people, and around 1,000 sought shelter at a military base. Defense Minister Minoru Kihara announced that 1,000 military personnel were preparing to assist in the region, with 8,500 others on standby.
The earthquake’s impact was felt even in Tokyo, 300 kilometers away, where apartments shook and a public New Year greeting event attended by Emperor Naruhito and his family members was canceled. Major highways around the epicenter were closed, and bullet train services from Tokyo were suspended.
Japan experiences numerous earthquakes each year, with most causing no significant damage. However, seismic activity in the Noto Peninsula region has been steadily increasing since 2018, according to a Japanese government report.
The memory of the devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami in 2011, which claimed thousands of lives and caused a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima plant, still haunts Japan.
Despite the destruction caused by this recent earthquake, Japan’s nuclear authority reported no abnormalities at the Shika atomic power plant or other plants. The international community expressed solidarity and offered assistance to Japan. The United States, France, and Italy all extended their support and condolences.