Powerful Earthquake Strikes Japan, Prompting Evacuation of Thousands

Powerful Earthquake Strikes Japan, Prompting Evacuation of Thousands

Japan earthquake,powerful quake, Japan, evacuate, earthquake, tsunami warning, destruction, rescue operations, casualties, nuclear plants, power outage

TOKYO, Jan 1 - A powerful earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale rocked central Japan on Monday, leading to the evacuation of nearly 100,000 residents. The earthquake caused significant destruction, claiming at least one life and leaving numerous buildings in ruins. Tens of thousands of homes experienced power outages, compelling coastal residents to seek higher ground for safety.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), in its first major tsunami warning since the devastating 2011 earthquake, initially issued a high-level alert for Ishikawa prefecture. However, the warning was later downgraded to an advisory. Waves of approximately 1 meter were observed along Japan's west coast and neighboring South Korea.

The earthquake, the strongest in the region in over four decades, caused houses to collapse and fires to break out. The government swiftly dispatched army personnel to aid in rescue operations. Tragically, an elderly man lost his life when a building collapsed in Shika Town, Ishikawa.

Images from the affected areas depicted the aftermath of the disaster, including a building crumbling in Suzu and a significant crack in a road in Wajima. Social media platforms captured the fear and panic of the situation, with one witness sharing footage of the Keta Grand Shrine swaying as visitors watched in shock.

As millions of Japanese traditionally visit shrines and temples on New Year's Day, the earthquake struck at a time when many were present at these locations. Kanazawa, a popular tourist destination, saw the remnants of a shattered stone gate strewn at the entrance of a shrine, causing concern among worshippers.

The tremor was also felt in the neighboring Nagano prefecture's mountainous areas. Furthermore, Russia and North Korea issued tsunami warnings for specific regions.

Evacuation Orders and Nuclear Plants

The Japanese government took swift action, ordering over 97,000 people in nine prefectures along the western coast of Honshu, Japan's main island, to evacuate. These individuals sought refuge in sports halls and school gymnasiums, commonly used as emergency evacuation centers.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida emphasized the importance of search and rescue teams saving lives, despite the challenging access to affected areas due to blocked roads.

Given Japan's history with nuclear disasters, the earthquake raised concerns about the safety of nuclear plants. However, the Nuclear Regulation Authority confirmed that no irregularities were detected at the nuclear plants along the Sea of Japan. This includes Kansai Electric Power's Ohi and Takahama plants in Fukui Prefecture, which operate five active reactors. Hokuriku's Shika plant in Ishikawa, the closest nuclear power station to the epicenter, had already halted its reactors for inspections before the quake, unaffected by its impact.

Impact and Ongoing Challenges

Television screens across affected regions displayed a bright yellow message urging residents in specific coastal areas to evacuate immediately due to the threat of a tsunami. Reports indicated that at least 30 buildings collapsed in Wajima, renowned for its lacquerware, while fires engulfed several structures.

The earthquake also rattled buildings in Tokyo, located 500 km away on the opposite coast. As of late Monday, approximately 32,000 households in Ishikawa were still without power, with temperatures expected to drop near freezing overnight. Tohoku Electric Power reported that 700 households in neighboring Niigata prefecture experienced power outages.

West Japan Railway faced challenges as four bullet train services between Kanazawa and Toyama cities came to a halt, leaving around 1,400 passengers stranded.

Transport authorities were compelled to shut down one of Ishikawa's airports due to runway cracks. Airlines such as ANA and Japan Airlines modified their flight schedules, diverting or canceling services to the Niigata and Ishikawa regions.

News Agencies
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