In Japan, rescuers urgently worked against time and aftershocks to locate survivors of a destructive 7.5-magnitude earthquake, resulting in at least 48 casualties. 

Japanese rescuers raced against the clock and powerful aftershocks on Tuesday to find survivors of a New Year’s Day earthquake that claimed at least 48 lives and caused widespread destruction. The 7.5-magnitude quake in Ishikawa prefecture on Honshu triggered tsunami waves over a meter high, toppling houses, igniting a major fire, and tearing apart roads.

On the Noto Peninsula, destruction included buildings damaged by fire, flattened houses, sunken or washed ashore fishing boats, and highways hit by landslides.

“I’m amazed the house is this broken, and everyone in my family managed to come out of it unscathed,” said Akiko, standing outside her parents’ tilting home in the badly hit city of Wajima.

“Very extensive damage has been confirmed, including numerous casualties, building collapses, and fires,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said after a disaster response meeting.

“We have to race against time to search for and rescue victims of the disaster.”

Aerial news footage showed the terrifying scale of a fire that ripped through the old market area of Wajima, where a seven-story commercial building also collapsed. Quake damage impaired rescue efforts to put out the blaze.

Aerial photo shows smoke rising from an area following a large fire in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture on January 2, 2024 (JIJI PRESS, AFP)

Almost 33,000 households were without power in the region, which saw temperatures touch freezing overnight, the local energy provider said. Many cities were without running water.

The US Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 7.5. Japan’s meteorological agency measured it at 7.6 and said it was one of more than 150 to shake the region through Tuesday morning.

On Monday, waves at least 1.2 meters (four feet) high hit Wajima, and a series of smaller tsunamis were reported elsewhere.

Warnings of much larger waves proved unfounded, and on Tuesday, Japan lifted all tsunami warnings.

A total of 62,000 people had been ordered to evacuate, according to the fire and disaster management agency. About 1,000 were staying at a military base, the defense ministry said.

Japan experiences hundreds of earthquakes every year, and the vast majority cause no damage.

Miroslava Salazar, with AFP

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