Japan orders evacuations after tsunami warning

Japan has urged residents to “evacuate immediately” after a 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck the central region.

A major tsunami warning was issued for the coastal Noto area in Ishikawa, warning of waves as high as 5m (16ft).

Authorities also issued tsunami warnings for the neighbouring Niigata and Toyama prefectures, where they said waves could reach 3m.

Public television flashed “EVACUATE” in big letters, urging residents to flee to higher ground despite the cold.

An NHK presenter urged affected viewers: “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.”

People have also posted videos of their homes and subway trains shaking during the earthquake on Monday, New Year’s Day.

A succession of 21 earthquakes registering 4.0 magnitude or stronger struck central Japan in just over 90 minutes on Monday, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said. The strongest tremor hit at 16:10 local time (07:10 GMT), measuring 7.6.

Several local media reports said this was the first time a “major tsunami warning” was issued since 2011, when a powerful earthquake tore through north-eastern Japan and unleashed waves of up to 40m high.

Japan is one of the most seismically active nations on Earth, owing to its location on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where many tectonic plates meet. The constant threat of earthquakes has led Japan to develop one of the world’s most sophisticated tsunami warning systems.

A collapsed house following an earthquake is seen in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan January 1, 2024
Image caption,A collapsed house in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

Major highways were closed near the epicentre of Monday’s quake. More than 36,000 households were left without power in the area, according to utilities provider Hokuriku Electric Power.

Japan’s nuclear authority said there is “no risk of radioactivity leaking from nuclear power plants” in the areas affected by the earthquakes and tsunami.

Government spokesman Yoshimasa Hayashi warned residents to prepare for further quakes.

South Korea’s meteorological agency has warned that tsunami waves up to 0.3m could hit the eastern coast of the country between 18:29 to 19:17 local time on Monday. It has asked residents in the mountainous Gangwon province to province to evacuate to higher ground.

Russia has issued tsunami warnings in the far eastern port cities of Vladivostok and Nakhodka, its state news agency TASS reported.

In 2011, Japan was hit by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and a resulting tsunami which tore through its north-eastern coastal communities, killing almost 18,000 people and displacing tens of thousands.

Those tsunami waves triggered a nuclear meltdown at the http://outbackball.com/ Fukushima power plant, causing the most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Map of Japan showing affected areas.

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