Powerful Earthquake Hits Japan

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A devastating 7.6 magnitude earthquake in Japan on New Year’s Day claims at least 48 lives, triggers tsunamis, prompts urgent rescue efforts on the Noto peninsula, and raises concerns in the nuclear industry.

Isolde Fairchild

WAJIMA, Japan – A devastating earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.6 struck Japan on New Year’s Day, claiming the lives of at least 48 people and leaving widespread destruction in its wake. The quake triggered tsunami waves along Japan’s western seaboard, forcing coastal residents to flee to higher ground as buildings crumbled and cars were swept away. Rescue efforts are underway on the Noto peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture, with a 3,000-strong team comprising army personnel, firefighters, and police officers battling against time to reach isolated areas.

Prime Minister Urges Swift Action

During an emergency meeting on Tuesday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida emphasized the urgency of the search and rescue mission, acknowledging the difficulties faced by responders in accessing the northern tip of the Noto peninsula. Kishida declared the situation a “battle against time,” as helicopter surveys revealed extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure, along with numerous fires. Rail services and flights into the affected region have been suspended, leaving over 500 people stranded at Noto’s airport due to runway and terminal damage.

Catastrophic Impact on Communities

In the coastal town of Suzu, Mayor Masuhiro Izumiya reported the potential destruction of up to 1,000 houses, labeling the situation as “catastrophic.” The confirmed 48 fatalities are concentrated in Ishikawa prefecture, making this earthquake Japan’s deadliest since 2016. Wajima, a city on the remote northern tip of the Noto peninsula, has seen significant casualties and widespread damage, with residents like Shoichi Kobayashi describing the powerful quake and subsequent aftershocks as unprecedented.

Concerns Amidst Japan’s Nuclear Industry

The earthquake’s impact is also raising concerns in Japan’s nuclear industry, especially as it coincides with the lifting of the operational ban on the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant. This region faced severe opposition following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima. Although the Nuclear Regulation Authority found no irregularities at currently operational nuclear plants along the Sea of Japan, companies like Toshiba and Kokusai Electric are assessing the quake’s impact on their facilities, underscoring the broader repercussions of this tragic event.

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