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Tsunami, Earthquakes Hit Japan, Government still “Assessing” Situation

Tsunami, Earthquakes Hit Japan, Government still “Assessing” Situation


Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Jan 1: Huge Tsunami waves over a metre high hit Japan after the nation was rocked by a series of earthquakes on the New Year day causing damages to homes, set off a major fire, forced the authorities to close many highways and suspend bullet trains and urged the people to run to higher grounds.

While the government said it was still assessing the situation if the quakes or Tsunami caused casualties, initial reports said about two deaths in the earthquake.

The 7.5-magnitude quake struck the Noto region in Ishikawa prefecture on the Sea of Japan side of the main central island of Honshu at around 4:10 pm (0710 GMT), the US Geological Survey (USGS) said. Japan’s weather agency put the magnitude at 7.6 and said it was one of more than 50 quakes of 3.2 magnitude or more to rock the region on the New Year’s Day holiday — when families get together and visit shrines — over several hours.

Television channels interrupted normal services with special programming including of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida urging people in danger areas to “evacuate as soon as possible” to higher ground. “We realise your home, your belongings are all precious to you, but your lives are important above everything else! Run to the highest ground possible,” the television channels bellowed warnings.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) initially issued a “large tsunami” warning, meaning waves of up to five metres. But no further major incidents were reported and the JMA later downgraded its warning to tsunamis of up to three metres. The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center also said around four hours after the major quake that the tsunami danger had “largely passed.” The JMA warned local residents of possible further quakes during the coming week or so, particularly within the next two to three days.

Waves at least 1.2 meters (four feet) high hit the Wajima port only around 10 minutes after the strongest quake, and a series of smaller tsunamis were reported elsewhere, as far away as the northernmost main island of Hokkaido.

The Japanese government said it was still assessing the extent of damage caused and whether there had been any casualties from the quake, which was felt in the capital Tokyo 300 kilometres away. Government spokesman Yoshimasa Hayashi said there were reports that six people were in the rubble of collapsed buildings, but gave no further details. Suzu city officials in Japan’s Ishikawa prefecture have said that buildings have been damaged after the quake and there are reports of injuries. According to Suzu police, they have received several reports regarding people being trapped in their houses,

Images broadcast on television showed a major fire blazing in Wajima that had engulfed a row of houses, with people being evacuated in the dark, some with blankets and others carrying babies. “There is a large fire. We cannot immediately tell how many houses are affected by it,” a firefighter with the Wajima Fire Department said. “For now, four fire engines are there” while other equipment struggled to reach the scene due to damaged roads and other obstacles, he said.

The department was swamped with calls, with “numerous” reports of people injured and trapped inside collapsed buildings, he added. Around 33,500 households around the epicentre, in Toyama, Ishikawa and Niigata prefectures, were without power, local utilities said.

A video clip posted on social media platform X showed lines of wooden houses toppled by the quakes, with walls and roofs caved in. “This is the Matsunami district of Noto. We are in a horrible situation. Please come and help us. My town is in a horrible situation,” said a person heard in the video.

Several major highways were closed around the epicentre, Japan’s road operator said, and Shinkansen bullet train services were also suspended between Tokyo and the epicentre in Noto. Japan experiences hundreds of earthquakes every year and the vast majority cause no damage.

The country has strict construction regulations intended to ensure buildings can withstand strong earthquakes and routinely holds emergency drills to prepare for a major jolt.

But the country is haunted by the memory of a massive 9.0-magnitude undersea quake off north-eastern Japan in March 2011, which triggered a tsunami that left around 18,500 people dead or missing. The 2011 tsunami also sent three reactors into meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing Japan’s worst post-war disaster and the most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl. However, on Monday Japan’s nuclear authority said there were no abnormalities reported at the Shika nuclear power plant in Ishikawa or at other plants after the latest quake.

Indian Tsunami Early Warning Centre (ITEWC) which houses the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) in Hyderabad stated that there is no tsunami threat to India due to the Japan earthquake.




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