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New Year’s Day: 30 people died in 155 earthquakes in Japan, thousands of people evacuated

New Year’s Day: The Deadly Struggles for Japan

Nearly 33,000 homes were without electricity on Tuesday, and many vital routes across the country, including major highways, remained closed, causing difficulty for doctors and army personnel in providing rescue services.

At least 30 people have died after a series of powerful earthquakes struck Japan on the first day of 2024, as authorities struggled to assess the magnitude of the disaster. The Japan Meteorological Office said at least 155 earthquakes have struck the island nation since Monday, including an initial 7.6-magnitude quake and another one greater than magnitude 6 on New Year’s Day.

Authorities issued a tsunami warning shortly after the initial earthquake, which sent waves up to 5 feet high across the country. The news media reported that about 33,000 homes were without power on Tuesday and that many vital routes across the country, including major highways, were closed, hampering doctors and army personnel providing rescue services.

The initial quake, measuring 7.6 magnitude, struck mid-afternoon Monday on New Year’s Day, sending people in some coastal areas fleeing to higher ground as tsunami waves hit the country’s west coast. Due to the waves, cars and some houses were swept away into the sea.

Here are the latest developments from the earthquake in Japan:

  • Thousands of army personnel have been deployed to Japan’s relatively remote Noto Peninsula, the region of the country most affected by the earthquake. However, rescue operations have been hampered by damaged and blocked roads, including the closure of an airport in the area due to cracks on the runway. The media reported that many rail services and flights were also suspended in the region.
  • Japan’s transport ministry said four expressways, two high-speed rail services, 34 local train lines, and 16 ferry lines were halted, while 38 flights were canceled after the earthquake struck the country on New Year’s Day, the media reports. However, the Japan Meteorological Office warned that more powerful aftershocks could hit the country in the coming days.
  • The extent of the damage caused by Monday’s (New Year’s Day) earthquake and several other earthquakes that followed is still emerging. News footage showed collapsed buildings, sunken boats in a port, several burnt-out houses, and locals with electricity cut off as temperatures dropped overnight. Aerial news footage showed sunken boats at the fishing port of Suzhou city.
  • The video shows that the earthquake caused a massive fire in Wajima, which engulfed many houses. People were evacuated in the dark, some with blankets and some with children. A duty officer at the Wajima fire department said they were overwhelmed with rescue requests and reports of damage, adding that the number had been increasing since Tuesday morning.
  • Thousands of people were ordered to evacuate, including about 1,000 living at the military base, the media reported, citing the defense ministry. As of Monday night (New Year’s Day), more than 97,000 people in nine prefectures on the west coast of Honshu island have been asked to evacuate, the Japanese government said. According to the media report, these people spent the night in the sports hall and school gymnasium.
  • About 33,000 homes remained without power in Ishikawa Prefecture as of Tuesday. NHK reported that most areas of the northern Noto Peninsula were without water supply. At least 700 homes remained without power in neighboring Niigata Prefecture. Meanwhile, West Japan Railways said late on Monday that a total of 1,400 passengers were stranded on four-halter bullet train services between the cities of Kanazawa and Toyama, a news agency reported.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters late Monday on New Year’s Day that he had ordered search and rescue teams to reach earthquake-hit areas with “whatever means available.” “The search and rescue of people affected by the earthquake is a fight against time,” he said in televised comments during an emergency disaster meeting on Tuesday.
  • Russia, South Korea, and North Korea have issued tsunami warnings after the powerful earthquake in Japan. The western coast of Sakhalin Island and mainland Primorsk and Khabarovsk regions are at risk of a tsunami, Russian state news agency TASS reported on Monday, citing officials. Meanwhile, a tsunami of less than 3.3 feet reached the east coast of South Korea after a massive earthquake in Japan. Separately, North Korea issued a tsunami warning for its coast due to possible waves of more than 2 metres.
  • US President Joe Biden said the United States is ready to provide any necessary help to Japan. He said, “As close allies, the United States and Japan share a deep bond of friendship that unites our peoples. Our thoughts are with the Japanese people at this difficult time.” Both America and Japan are members of the Group of Seven (G7) countries.
  • Japan is frequently prone to earthquakes, and the country has strict regulations to ensure that buildings can withstand strong tremors, leading to regular emergency drills. The latest earthquake before Monday occurred on March 16, 2022, with a magnitude of 7.3 in Fukushima that killed two people and injured 94. The deadliest event in the country’s history occurred on March 11, 2011, when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan, killing about 20,000 people and leaving many more missing. It also led to the meltdown at Fukushima, causing one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters since Chernobyl.

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