Japan faces a “fight against time” to find earthquake survivors as it lifts tsunami warnings and the death toll rises

(CNN) — Scenes of devastation unfolded off Japan’s west coast on Tuesday as rescue workers rushed to rescue residents trapped under debris after a 7.5-magnitude earthquake and aftershocks struck central Japan, killing at least 30 people.

An earthquake struck the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture on Monday afternoon, causing building collapse, fires and a tsunami warning issued as far away as eastern Russia.

The Japan Meteorological Agency lifted all tsunami warnings for parts of the country’s west coast on Tuesday, but access to the northern part of the isolated Japan Peninsula remains limited, about 24 hours after the quake struck. I have noticed.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters after an emergency disaster meeting on Tuesday that a destroyed road had cut off access to the area.

Authorities in helicopters flew over the peninsula, which is known for its coastal and rural landscapes, and reported seeing damaged roads, landslides and large fires, he said.

Kishida said, “To secure the route there, we must mobilize all means of transportation, not only land but also air and sea. We have been making efforts to move goods, supplies and personnel there since last night.”

Ishikawa prefectural authorities said at least 30 people were confirmed dead.

The central city of Wajima, home to more than 27,000 people, was worst affected. Wajima city officials told CNN that 15 people have been confirmed dead there.

The coastal city is famous for its morning markets and fine traditional lacquerware, but aerial surveys early Tuesday showed huge plumes of smoke over smoldering streets and destroyed buildings.

earthquake in japan

This photo shows damaged buildings after several strong earthquakes struck Anamizu, Ishikawa, Japan the previous day, January 2, 2024. (Credit: The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images)

Japanese public information network NHK reported that more than 100 shops and houses were burned in Wajima on Monday night in a fire that broke out after the quake.

Earlier, the city had faced tsunami waves of about 1.2 meters, according to NHK.

Thousands of people had to flee coastal areas due to earthquake and tsunami warnings. As of Tuesday morning, more than 30,200 people had taken shelter in 336 evacuation centers in Ishikawa, a prefectural government spokesperson told CNN.

Although the extent of the damage caused by Monday’s earthquake is still being determined, it is a far cry from the level of destruction caused by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake in 2011, which caused a tsunami and a nuclear explosion at the plant. In Fukushima Energy, a disaster that is still felt today.

night rescue effort

Prime Minister Kishida said Tuesday that members of the Japan Self-Defense Force had joined police and fire emergency teams to rescue people from devastated areas overnight.

“The rescue effort is a fight against time. Especially victims of collapsed buildings must be rescued as quickly as possible,” he said.

Japan’s fire department said on Monday it was responding to reports of people trapped under damaged buildings, NHK reported.

The death of an elderly man evacuated from a house that collapsed during the earthquake was later confirmed, according to NHK, citing Ishikawa police.

japan earthquake

Firefighters extinguish a blaze in Nanao, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, early Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. (Credit: Soichiro Koriyama/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Health officials in Suzu city said some doctors were unable to treat injured patients because damaged roads prevented them from getting to work.

Meanwhile, 45,700 homes in Ishikawa remained without power on Tuesday, according to Hokuriku Electric Power Co.

After the earthquake, Japan’s Kansai Electric and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said no anomalies had been reported at nuclear plants near the affected areas.

Four bullet trains, whose high-speed travel was halted when the quake struck, leaving about 1,400 passengers stranded for about 11 hours, resumed service Tuesday morning, according to NHK, citing Japan Railway West.

High-speed trains between the central Japan cities of Toyama and Kanazawa were stranded after the 7.5 magnitude earthquake.

Japan faces a “fight against time” to find earthquake survivors as it lifts tsunami warnings and the death toll rises

Cars remain stuck in cracks in a road damaged by several strong earthquakes in Noto, Ishikawa, Japan on January 2, 2024. (Credit: The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images)

Tsunami warnings and advisories lifted, but risk of aftershocks still remains

Monday’s powerful earthquake prompted the Japan Meteorological Agency to immediately issue a “major tsunami warning” — the first since the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami — for Noto, but later changed it to a “tsunami warning.”

Tsunami warnings were later canceled when the threat of new tsunami waves diminished.

According to Japan’s tsunami warning system, waves of less than 1 meter fall under “tsunami warning”, while waves of up to 3 meters fall under “tsunami warning”, and expected waves of more than 5 meters fall under “major”. Come under. “Tsunami warning.”

The first waves were reported hitting the shore just 10 minutes after the earthquake.

Video shows a wave hitting a protective sea wall in the western city of Suzu on Monday.

According to the United States Geological Survey, at least 35 small aftershocks were recorded near the epicenter.

Susan Huff, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, warned that the aftershocks could last for months.

Huff said people living in that part of the country have felt earthquakes before, but he believes this is “the largest earthquake we’ve ever seen,” meaning most residents will probably never experience a seismic event of this magnitude. There is no experience of the incident.

“An earthquake of this magnitude will still be followed by aftershocks. It could easily be over magnitude 6, so that would be a threat in itself,” Hoff said.

—CNN’s Emiko Jozuka contributed to this report.


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