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13 dead, scores injured in Japan after major earthquake topples buildings

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By Finbarr Flynn and Erica Yokoyama

At least 13 people were killed and scores injured in a powerful earthquake that hit off the Noto Peninsula on Japan’s northwest coast, toppling buildings, buckling roads and triggering a blaze that ripped through a city.  


The fire tore through more than 100 houses and buildings in Wajima, one of the hardest-hit cities of Monday’s magnitude-7.6 tremor, public broadcaster NHK said. Aftershocks were rattling the region as rescue workers fanned out to look for victims. A tsunami warning for most of the Sea of Japan coast was lifted Tuesday morning, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. 

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the quake caused widespread damage and he had set up a task force to help in rescue and repair operations. Networks briefly broke away from a live broadcast of his news conference when a large aftershock hit the region, the latest in a series of dozens.

Eight people have been confirmed dead as of Tuesday morning in Wajima, NHK said, and at least five others were killed in other parts of the region about 315 kilometers (195 miles) northwest of Tokyo. So far, the largest tsunami recorded after the New Year’s Day quake was in Wajima, at about 1.2 meters (4 feet). 

Some train services were suspended and power plants halted operations, while several roads and an airport runway were closed due to the damage. Mobile phone services were affected. About 33,000 households were without power as of Tuesday at 10 a.m., according to Hokuriku Electric, while parts of the region were also without running water. 


Video from the region showed cracks ripping through streets, collapsed houses and one seven-story building resting on its side after it was tipped over by the quake. 

Emperor Naruhito canceled a New Year public appearance planned for Tuesday in Tokyo out of consideration for the people affected by the quake, the Imperial Household Agency said.

Water in fuel pools inside reactor buildings of several units of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata Prefecture overflowed as a result of the earthquake, but no radioactive materials have been detected outside the buildings, according to a statement from Tokyo Electric Power Co. The plant is currently offline.

The earthquake impacted several thermal power plants in the region. Hokuriku Electric Power Co.’s Nanao Ohta power plant’s coal-fired units were halted due to the quake, leading to a loss of about 1.2 gigawatts of capacity, according to Japan Electric Power Exchange’s website. Jera Co. also halted a gas-fired unit at its Joetsu power station for inspection and plans to restart it Tuesday, according to JEPX website.

First Published: Jan 02 2024 | 8:13 AM IST


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