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Japanese media reports eight dead after earthquake

Japan has struggled to assess the full extent of damage from an earthquake that struck its west coast, wrecking buildings and roads, knocking out power to swathes of homes in freezing temperatures and according to national media killing at least eight people.

The quake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.6 struck in the middle of the afternoon yesterday, prompting residents in some coastal areas to flee to higher ground as tsunami waves about 1m hit Japan’s western seaboard.

Thousands of army personnel, firefighters and police officers from across the country have been dispatched to the worst-hit area in the relatively remote Noto peninsula.

However, rescue efforts have been hindered by badly damaged and blocked roads and one of the area’s airports has been forced to close due to runway cracks.

Many rail services and flights into the area have also been suspended.

Mr Kishida said it was difficult for rescuers to reach the north of Noto peninsula due to wrecked roads

“The search and rescue of those impacted by the quake is a battle against time,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said during an emergency disaster meeting.

Mr Kishida said rescuers were finding it very difficult to reach the northern tip of the Noto peninsula due to wrecked roads, and that helicopter surveys had discovered many fires and widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure.

Public broadcaster NHK said eight deaths had been reported in the town of Wajima near the quake’s epicentre, while in nearby Suzu some doctors were unable to reach a hospital that was relying on a backup generator for power.

The national police agency said six people had been confirmed dead, while the fire and disaster management agency said 19 people were in a state of cardiac arrest.

More than 90 tremors have been detected since the quake first hit, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

The agency has warned more strong shocks could strike in coming days.

In Toyama city, around 100km from the worst-hit area, some shelves in convenience stores were empty as the disaster disrupted the delivery of goods across the region.

The Japanese government ordered more than 97,000 people to evacuate their homes

US President Joe Biden said in a statement the United States was ready to provide any necessary help to Japan after the earthquake.

“As close allies, the United States and Japan share a deep bond of friendship that unites our people. Our thoughts are with the Japanese people during this difficult time,” he said.

The Japanese government ordered more than 97,000 people to evacuate their homes on the night of the quake, sending them to sports halls and school gymnasiums, commonly used as evacuation centres in emergencies.

Many have returned to their homes as authorities lifted tsunami warnings.

But around 33,000 households remain without power in Ishikawa prefecture, according to Hokuriku Electric Power’s website.

Most areas in the northern Noto peninsula also have no water supply, public broadcaster NHK reported.

The Imperial Household Agency said it would cancel Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako’s scheduled New Year appearance following the disaster.

Nuclear Plants

The quake comes at a sensitive time for Japan’s nuclear industry, which has faced fierce opposition from some locals since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima.

Whole towns were devastated in that disaster.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority said no irregularities were found at nuclear plants along the Sea of Japan, including five active reactors at Kansai Electric Power’s Ohi and Takahama plants in Fukui Prefecture.

Hokuriku Electric’s Shika plant, the closest to the epicentre, had already halted its two reactors before the quake for regular inspections and saw no impact from the quake, the agency said.

Chip materials maker Kokusai Electric said it is investigating further after finding some damage at its factory in Toyama ahead of the planned resumption of operations on Thursday.


Read more: Major earthquake in Japan kills six, triggers tsunami waves


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