Disaster: At least 48 dead, many trapped after 155 quakes in Japan; land shifts
New Delhi: At least 48 people were reported dead and many feared trapped in the debris of buildings after 155 earthquakes hit Japan in a day on New Year’s Day, causing widespread destruction, although the early warnings of a severe tsunami were later withdrawn, the media reported on Tuesday.
Several strong tremors hit Japan early Tuesday, including one measuring 5.6 on the Richter Scale that prompted national broadcasters NHK to switch mid-way to a special program cautioning the people about the calamities.
Quoting officials, Sky News reported that the quake may have shifted land in the Noto region by up to 1.3 meters to the west, as per the data available with Japan’s Geospatial Information Authority (GSI).
According to preliminary information from an observation point in Wajima City, the shift was the biggest in the Ishikawa region while a westward shift of about 1m was seen in Anamizu town and 80 cm in Suzu city. Some land shift was also noted in Nanao city, Toyama, Niigata, and the Kanto-Koshin region.
On Monday, a 7.5 magnitude temblor rattled Ishikawa prefecture on the main island of Honshu and triggered tsunami waves more than a meter high, toppled houses, caused a major fire, and tore apart roads. On the Noto Peninsula, the destruction included buildings damaged by fire, houses flattened, fishing boats sunk or washed ashore, and highways hit by landslides.
Local authorities put the immediate death count at 48, but the number was expected to rise as rescuers comb through the rubble.
“Very extensive damage has been confirmed, including numerous casualties, building collapses, and fires,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said after a disaster response meeting.
Aerial news footage showed the terrifying scale of a fire that ripped through the old market area of Wajima, where a seven-story commercial building also collapsed. Quake damage impaired rescue efforts to put out the blaze.
About 33,000 households were without power in the region, which saw freezing temperatures overnight, the local energy provider said. Many cities were without running water as well.
The US Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 7.5. Japan’s meteorological agency measured it at 7.6 and said it was one of more than 150 to shake the region through Tuesday morning.
On Monday, waves at least 1.2 meters high hit Wajima, and a series of smaller tsunamis were reported elsewhere.
A team of firefighters crawled under a collapsed commercial building in Wajima looking for survivors, television footage showed.
Ishikawa Governor Hiroshi Hase informed that roads had been cut in widespread areas by landslides or cracking, while in the port of Suzu “multiple” vessels had capsized.
Nearly 62,000 people had been ordered to evacuate, according to the fire and disaster management agency.
Monday’s quake shook apartments in the capital Tokyo about 300 kilometers away, where a public New Year’s Day greeting event by Emperor Naruhito was cancelled.
Japan experiences hundreds of earthquakes every year and the vast majority cause no damage.
The number of earthquakes in the Noto Peninsula region has been steadily increasing since 2018, a Japanese government report said last year.
The country is still haunted by a massive 9.0 magnitude undersea quake off northeastern Japan in 2011 which triggered an unprecedented tsunami that left around 18,500 people dead or missing. It also swamped the Fukushima atomic plant, causing one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.
Japan’s nuclear authority said no abnormalities were reported at the Shika atomic power plant in Ishikawa or other plants after the latest quake.