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 said. The most substantial jolt measured 7.6, it added. The quakes triggered tsunami warnings, and authorities urged people to move to higher ground.
The waves were 50cm to 1 meter high, CNN’s Chris Gilbert reports from Tokyo, but more are expected to hit within the next 90 minutes. Japan public broadcaster NHK TV warned torrents of water could be as high as 5 meters (16.5 feet) and urged residents to flee from coastal areas. “We realize your belongings are important to you, but your lives are more important,” NHK said, urging people to flee the coast. “Please run to the highest place possible as quickly as possible.”
Thousands of homes are without power around the epicenter, local utilities said. About 33,500 households in Ishikawa, Niigata, and Toyama prefectures have lost electricity. The quake shook buildings as far away as Tokyo, with footage aired on NHK showing residents in Kanazawa city cowering under tables as the tremors rocked their homes.
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida urged residents to remain alert and evacuate as soon as possible. “We will keep residents on alert for further possible quakes, and I urge those living in areas where a tsunami is expected to take action immediately,” he said, as quoted by NHK.
A series of strong aftershocks followed the quake. NHK reported that some buildings collapsed and others were partially destroyed. A man was seriously injured when a brick wall fell on him, and another person was hospitalized with severe injuries from falling debris, according to Reuters.
NHK said the quake struck the Noto region on the Sea of Japan side of Japan’s main island of Honshu at about 4:10 pm local time (4:10 GMT). It was accompanied by a 5.7 magnitude tremor, a 6.1 magnitude quake, a 4.5 magnitude one, and two more tremors with smaller magnitudes.
The quake also caused a brief tsunami that affected the coastal town of Wajima, with waves measuring up to 1.2 meters (four feet) high hitting the town and beach. The temblors prompted NHK to switch to special programming and call for residents in the affected area to move to safer locations.
Japan’s nuclear regulation authority said there were no abnormalities at power plants in the affected areas and no risk of radioactive leaks. The Japanese disaster relief agency is working to assist those whose homes and businesses have been damaged.
A series of powerful quakes have shaken the northeastern part of the country in recent weeks, killing at least 62 people and damaging many towns and villages. The region has been prone to earthquakes and tsunamis since a substantial 9.0-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami devastated Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011, leaving hundreds of people missing and prompting the worst meltdown in a generation.