Japan’s earthquake horror sparks panic buying after tens of thousands of homes were


At least 48 people have died following the devastating 7.6 magnitude earthquake that rocked Japan‘s main island of Honshu yesterday, reducing tens of thousands of houses and buildings to rubble and leaving terrified survivors to brave sub-zero temperatures on the streets, unable to return to their homes. 

Dozens of people are still missing and unaccounted for amid the New Year’s disaster, with the death toll expected to rise sharply as rescuers begin to recover victims buried beneath the debris.

Forty-eight people were confirmed dead in Ishikawa, the prefecture worst hit, officials said, while damage to homes was so great that it could not immediately be assessed.

The savage incident sparked a wave of panic buying across Japan, as residents lucky enough to have avoided the devastation sought to stock up on essentials even as aftershocks continued to shake Ishikawa and nearby areas a day after the 7.6 magnitude quake slammed the area on Monday afternoon.

One building, believed to be a seven-storey block, was seen lying on its side while a temple in Suzu City is said to have been completely destroyed. Shocking images show how even houses specially designed to withstand earthquakes were flattened, with abandoned cars tossed about and engulfed by huge crevices in the road. 

Destroyed houses along the coast are seen in Suzu, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan

Destroyed houses along the coast are seen in Suzu, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan

In this aerial image, smoke rises at Asaichi Yokocho district where approximately 200 buildings have been burnt down after multiple strong earthquakes hit the area the previous day on January 2

In this aerial image, smoke rises at Asaichi Yokocho district where approximately 200 buildings have been burnt down after multiple strong earthquakes hit the area the previous day on January 2

A view from empty shelves at a supermarket following the earthquakes along the coast of the Noto Peninsula, in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, on January 2, 2024

A view from empty shelves at a supermarket following the earthquakes along the coast of the Noto Peninsula, in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, on January 2, 2024

This aerial photo shows an area affected by an earthquake in Suzu, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. A series of powerful earthquakes in western Japan damaged homes, cars and boats, with officials warning people on Tuesday to stay away from their homes in some areas because of a continuing risk of major quakes and tsunamis

This aerial photo shows an area affected by an earthquake in Suzu, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. A series of powerful earthquakes in western Japan damaged homes, cars and boats, with officials warning people on Tuesday to stay away from their homes in some areas because of a continuing risk of major quakes and tsunamis

This aerial photo provided by Jiji Press shows smoke rising from an area following a large fire in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture on January 2, 2024

This aerial photo provided by Jiji Press shows smoke rising from an area following a large fire in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture on January 2, 2024

Roads were torn up by the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Japan on New Year's Day

Roads were torn up by the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Japan on New Year’s Day 

A major search and rescue operation continued into Tuesday, with Japan’s prime minister saying that rescue efforts had been made ‘extremely difficult due to damage to roads’ in the Ishikawa prefecture, near the epicentre of the quake.

But fears are growing that time is running out to find survivors trapped beneath the surface. The main highway through the district was completely closed, according to reports.

Water, power and phone service remains down across Ishikawa and beyond, and residents expressed sorrow about their destroyed homes and uncertain futures.

‘It’s not just that it’s a mess. The wall has collapsed, and you can see through to the next room. I don’t think we can live here anymore,’ Miki Kobayashi, an Ishikawa resident, said as she swept around her house.

Around 2,500 emergency responders scrambled from big cities to help the search operation in the impacted coastal area, Nikkei Asia reported, as regional Governor Hiroshi Hasthat declared the first 24 hours is crucial to save as many people as possible. 

Smoke can be seen rising from a house fire along with other damage along the coast in the town of Noto, Ishikawa prefecture

Smoke can be seen rising from a house fire along with other damage along the coast in the town of Noto, Ishikawa prefecture

Entire neighbourhoods have been destroyed by the earthquake

Entire neighbourhoods have been destroyed by the earthquake

A wooden house collapsed onto a car in he city of Nanao, Ishikawa Prefecture

A wooden house collapsed onto a car in he city of Nanao, Ishikawa Prefecture

Whole buildings were toppled by the earthquake

Whole buildings were toppled by the earthquake

Damaged and destroyed homes along a street in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

Damaged and destroyed homes along a street in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

Houses fallen by an earthquake are seen in Kanazawa, Ishikawa prefecture

Houses fallen by an earthquake are seen in Kanazawa, Ishikawa prefecture 

Japanese citizens have been forced into makeshift shelters across the country

Japanese citizens have been forced into makeshift shelters across the country

Japanese rescuers battled against the clock and powerful aftershocks on January 2 to find survivors of a major earthquake that struck on New Year's Day

Japanese rescuers battled against the clock and powerful aftershocks on January 2 to find survivors of a major earthquake that struck on New Year’s Day

A two-year-old girl stands with her father as she looks outside from a green house converted as an evacuation centre in the aftermath of an earthquake

A two-year-old girl stands with her father as she looks outside from a green house converted as an evacuation centre in the aftermath of an earthquake

Destroyed houses along the coast are seen in Suzu, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024

Destroyed houses along the coast are seen in Suzu, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024

Evacuated people rest at a green house converted as an evacuation centre, in the aftermath of an earthquake, in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

Evacuated people rest at a green house converted as an evacuation centre, in the aftermath of an earthquake, in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

A house flattened by the earthquake that took place on January 1 in Nanao, Japan

A house flattened by the earthquake that took place on January 1 in Nanao, Japan

In this aerial image rescue operations continue in Horyumachi district following multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2, 2024 in Suzu

In this aerial image rescue operations continue in Horyumachi district following multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2, 2024 in Suzu

A car is engulfed by a crack in the road in Ishikawa, Japan, following a 7.6 magnitude earthquake

A car is engulfed by a crack in the road in Ishikawa, Japan, following a 7.6 magnitude earthquake 

A building falls to the ground in Waijma, in the Ishikawa prefecture in Japan, on January 2

A building falls to the ground in Waijma, in the Ishikawa prefecture in Japan, on January 2

A woman searches for her family's belongings in the rubble of a destroyed house in Wajima, Japan

A woman searches for her family’s belongings in the rubble of a destroyed house in Wajima, Japan

Many houses in Japan are made of wood, and are more susceptible to tremors

Many houses in Japan are made of wood, and are more susceptible to tremors

Roads, buildings, and stores have collapsed following the earthquakes as the death toll from powerful earthquakes has climbed to 48

Roads, buildings, and stores have collapsed following the earthquakes as the death toll from powerful earthquakes has climbed to 48

Huge cracks in the road form following a series of strong earthquakes in Japan

Huge cracks in the road form following a series of strong earthquakes in Japan

Empty shelves are seen as people had purchased in preparation for evacuation at a convenience store on January 1 in Kanazawa, Ishikawa

Empty shelves are seen as people had purchased in preparation for evacuation at a convenience store on January 1 in Kanazawa, Ishikawa

Emergency workers begin investigations in charred buildings and partly collapsed houses in Nanao, Japan

Emergency workers begin investigations in charred buildings and partly collapsed houses in Nanao, Japan

White smoke plumes from houses along the coast in Suzu following a series of powerful earthquakes

White smoke plumes from houses along the coast in Suzu following a series of powerful earthquakes 

A view of a damaged road following a strong earthquake in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan

A view of a damaged road following a strong earthquake in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan

Cars are stranded in the cracks as the road has been damaged by multiple strong earthquakes on January 2

Cars are stranded in the cracks as the road has been damaged by multiple strong earthquakes on January 2

Fire is seen in the area burnt down by a blaze triggered by multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2

Fire is seen in the area burnt down by a blaze triggered by multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2

A major 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Noto region in Ishikawa prefecture on January 1

A major 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Noto region in Ishikawa prefecture on January 1

A fire fighter battle at the Asaichi Yokocho district where approximately 200 buildings have been burnt down

A fire fighter battle at the Asaichi Yokocho district where approximately 200 buildings have been burnt down

Police officers search for survivors at the Asaichi Yokocho district where approximately 200 buildings have been burnt down after multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2, 2024 in Wajima, Ishikawa

Police officers search for survivors at the Asaichi Yokocho district where approximately 200 buildings have been burnt down after multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2, 2024 in Wajima, Ishikawa

People walk among collapsed houses after multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2, 2024 in Suzu, Ishikawa, Japan

People walk among collapsed houses after multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2, 2024 in Suzu, Ishikawa, Japan

A fire company member and local resident talk at Asaichi Yokocho district where approximately 200 buildings have been burnt down after multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2, 2024 in Wajima

A fire company member and local resident talk at Asaichi Yokocho district where approximately 200 buildings have been burnt down after multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2, 2024 in Wajima

The government said it was still assessing the extent of damage from the quake, which shook apartments in the capital Tokyo some 300 kilometres (190 miles) away from the epicentre.

More than 51,000 people were ordered to evacuate their homes, with impromptu shelters set up in the worst hit areas. More than 1,000 people were staying at a military base, the defence ministry said.

The biggest of yesterday’s quakes rocked the west coast of Honshu island, triggering tsunami alerts in four countries, though these were subsequently downgraded.

As Japan was on high alert on Monday, waves of at least 1.2 metres (four feet) high hit the port of Wajima, and a series of smaller tsunamis were reported elsewhere, including as far away as the northern island of Hokkaido.

Dozens of aftershocks registering between 3.1 and 6 on the Richter scale rang out after the largest quake hit around 4pm local time (7am UK time) yesterday. 

Videos shared on social media and broadcast on Japanese TV in the immediate aftermath of the largest quake showed how structures had crumbled in Suzu with thick cracks appearing in roads. 

Agricultural machinery and other equipment are seen trapped under a collapsed wooden house in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture on January 2

Agricultural machinery and other equipment are seen trapped under a collapsed wooden house in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture on January 2

Heavy stone lanterns in shrines across Japan have collapsed during the earthquake

Heavy stone lanterns in shrines across Japan have collapsed during the earthquake

Entire buildings have collapsed following the deadly earthquake in Japan

Entire buildings have collapsed following the deadly earthquake in Japan

A person picks up items from the shelves of a damaged drugstore after receiving permission from the store owner to take goods for free, in the aftermath of an earthquake, in Anamizu, Ishikawa prefecture

A person picks up items from the shelves of a damaged drugstore after receiving permission from the store owner to take goods for free, in the aftermath of an earthquake, in Anamizu, Ishikawa prefecture

Collapsed houses are seen at Horyumachi district after multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2, 2024 in Suzu, Ishikawa

Collapsed houses are seen at Horyumachi district after multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2, 2024 in Suzu, Ishikawa

Buildings in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, suffered deep damage after a major 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Noto region in Ishikawa prefecture

Buildings in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, suffered deep damage after a major 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Noto region in Ishikawa prefecture

Fire burns following an earthquake at a residential area in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan January 1, 2024

Fire burns following an earthquake at a residential area in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan January 1, 2024

Convenience store items lay on the ground following an earthquake in Nanao, Ishikawa Prefecture

Convenience store items lay on the ground following an earthquake in Nanao, Ishikawa Prefecture

This image was taken in Hong Kong on January 1, 2024 shows a warning message on a screen from a live feed on NHK World asking people to evacuate from the area

This image was taken in Hong Kong on January 1, 2024 shows a warning message on a screen from a live feed on NHK World asking people to evacuate from the area

Cars have been washed away after tsunami water recedes at Horyumachi district following multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2

Cars have been washed away after tsunami water recedes at Horyumachi district following multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2

Firefighters inspect collapsed wooden houses in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

Firefighters inspect collapsed wooden houses in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

Firefighters inspect collapsed wooden houses in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture on January 2, a day after a major earthquake struck the region

Firefighters inspect collapsed wooden houses in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture on January 2, a day after a major earthquake struck the region

This general view shows a badly damaged house in the city of Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture, on January 2, 2024

This general view shows a badly damaged house in the city of Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture, on January 2, 2024

People walk past a badly damaged house in the city of Nanao, Ishikawa Prefecture, today a day after the devastating 7.6-magnitude earthquake

People walk past a badly damaged house in the city of Nanao, Ishikawa Prefecture, today a day after the devastating 7.6-magnitude earthquake

A truck is washed away after tsunami water recedes at Iidamachi district following multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2

A truck is washed away after tsunami water recedes at Iidamachi district following multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2

A man walks among collapsed houses after tsunami water recedes at Iidamachi district following multiple strong earthquakes

A man walks among collapsed houses after tsunami water recedes at Iidamachi district following multiple strong earthquakes

Police officers search for survivors at a collapsed house after multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2, 2024 in Wajima, Ishikawa

Police officers search for survivors at a collapsed house after multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2, 2024 in Wajima, Ishikawa

The letters 'SOS' are seen written on the ground by using chairs at Kanazawa University Noto Satoyama Satoumi Meister training field

The letters ‘SOS’ are seen written on the ground by using chairs at Kanazawa University Noto Satoyama Satoumi Meister training field

Collapsed houses are seen after tsunami water recedes at Iidamachi district following multiple strong earthquakes

Collapsed houses are seen after tsunami water recedes at Iidamachi district following multiple strong earthquakes

A fishing boat is turnd over at a port after tsunami water recedes at Iidamachi district following multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2

A fishing boat is turnd over at a port after tsunami water recedes at Iidamachi district following multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2

An aerial view shows damage from a strong earthquake, in Suzu, central Japan, 02 January 2024

An aerial view shows damage from a strong earthquake, in Suzu, central Japan, 02 January 2024

Collapsed houses are seen after tsunami water recedes at Horyumachi district following multiple strong earthquakes

Collapsed houses are seen after tsunami water recedes at Horyumachi district following multiple strong earthquakes

A fishing boat on its side at a port after tsunami water recedes at Iidamachi district following multiple strong earthquakes

A fishing boat on its side at a port after tsunami water recedes at Iidamachi district following multiple strong earthquakes

An aerial view shows damage from a strong earthquake, in Noto, central Japan, with houses reduced to rubble or pushed away from the shore

An aerial view shows damage from a strong earthquake, in Noto, central Japan, with houses reduced to rubble or pushed away from the shore

This screen grab from AFPTV video footage taken on January 2, 2024 shows a man standing in front of a damaged house in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

This screen grab from AFPTV video footage taken on January 2, 2024 shows a man standing in front of a damaged house in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

A person walks near a building collapsed following an earthquake in Shikamachi, Ishikawa prefecture

A person walks near a building collapsed following an earthquake in Shikamachi, Ishikawa prefecture

Firefighters work on a blaze site following strong earthquake in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan

Firefighters work on a blaze site following strong earthquake in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan

The tremors triggered a huge fire in Wajima, with shocking footage showing massive flames engulfing residential buildings according to local broadcasters.   

Other clips showed terrified shoppers thrown to the ground in department stores and flooding at a train station after water pipes burst. 

The earthquake struck as millions of Japanese flocked to temples to mark the New Year, and temple-goers were seen in footage crouching in fear as chunks of rock tumbled to the ground before them.

Rescuers are combing through the debris of several houses to evacuate trapped residents after Yoshimasa Hayashi, chief cabinet secretary of Japan, acknowledged reports of scores of people trapped under the rubble of their homes.

The death toll is expected to rise sharply as the rescue operation continues. 

Elements of Japan’s military have been called up to aid in the rescue and evacuation efforts, Hayashi added, with a total of 51,000 told to abandon their homes. 

Many of these people are spending the night braving sub-zero temperatures, afraid to return to their homes amid warnings that further aftershocks could continue for 72 hours, with a constant risk of tsunamis.

Meanwhile, local reports suggested that large landslides between the cities of Toyama and Kanazawa have all but severed the Noto peninsula from the rest of Ishikawa, further complicating rescue efforts. 

Residents rest at an evacuation shelter after a strong earthquake in Togi town, Noto Peninsula, Japan

Residents rest at an evacuation shelter after a strong earthquake in Togi town, Noto Peninsula, Japan

At least 48 people have so far been killed by the quakes

At least 48 people have so far been killed by the quakes

Smoke billows from houses burnt by a fire, following a strong earthquake in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

Smoke billows from houses burnt by a fire, following a strong earthquake in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

This aerial photo provided by Jiji Press shows capsized boats and others left onshore at the fishing port in the city of Suzu, Ishikawa prefecture, on January 2

This aerial photo provided by Jiji Press shows capsized boats and others left onshore at the fishing port in the city of Suzu, Ishikawa prefecture, on January 2

A husband and a wife bring out their belongings from their vehicle which was damaged by thew fallen next-door house following an earthquake in Shikamachi, Ishikawa prefecture

A husband and a wife bring out their belongings from their vehicle which was damaged by thew fallen next-door house following an earthquake in Shikamachi, Ishikawa prefecture

A view of a collapsed road and houses because of an earthquake in Wajima

A view of a collapsed road and houses because of an earthquake in Wajima

Videos shared on social media and broadcast on Japanese TV showed how structures had crumbled in Suzu, a city close to the epicentre of the largest quake, with thick cracks appearing in roads

Videos shared on social media and broadcast on Japanese TV showed how structures had crumbled in Suzu, a city close to the epicentre of the largest quake, with thick cracks appearing in roads

Japan is bracing for yet more earthquakes after more than 80 tremors rippled through the country today, including one 7.6 magnitude quake that devastated Japan's main island Honshu, trapping dozens more under rubble

Japan is bracing for yet more earthquakes after more than 80 tremors rippled through the country today, including one 7.6 magnitude quake that devastated Japan’s main island Honshu, trapping dozens more under rubble

This aerial photo shows buildings burning in the city of Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture on January 1, 2024, after a major 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Noto region in Ishikawa prefecture in the afternoon

This aerial photo shows buildings burning in the city of Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture on January 1, 2024, after a major 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Noto region in Ishikawa prefecture in the afternoon

Fire burns following an earthquake at a residential area in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

Fire burns following an earthquake at a residential area in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

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Collapsed houses are seen in this street in Ishikawa

Some houses escaped the devastation but roads were cracked and torn up amid the quakes

Some houses escaped the devastation but roads were cracked and torn up amid the quakes

People cower from falling debris at a temple that was damaged in the quake

People cower from falling debris at a temple that was damaged in the quake

Fire burns following an earthquake in a residential area in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan January 1, 2024, in this still image from a video released by Kyodo

Fire burns following an earthquake in a residential area in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan January 1, 2024, in this still image from a video released by Kyodo

An aerial view shows fire site after an earthquake at a residential area in Wajima

An aerial view shows fire site after an earthquake at a residential area in Wajima

A car is trapped under a collapsed house following an earthquake in Shika town

A car is trapped under a collapsed house following an earthquake in Shika town

People sit on the floor inside a store as an earthquake hits, in Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan, on January 1, 2024

People sit on the floor inside a store as an earthquake hits, in Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan, on January 1, 2024

This general view shows badly damaged buildings along a street in the city of Wajima

This general view shows badly damaged buildings along a street in the city of Wajima

Cracks are seen on the ground in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan Monday, January 1, 2024, following an earthquake

Cracks are seen on the ground in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan Monday, January 1, 2024, following an earthquake

A commercial facility collapsed because of an earthquake is seen in Kaga, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan, on January 1, 2024

A commercial facility collapsed because of an earthquake is seen in Kaga, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan, on January 1, 2024

A collapsed house following an earthquake is seen in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

A collapsed house following an earthquake is seen in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

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A road is seen torn up with telephone and electricity masts damaged

A view of a damaged home and vehicles following a strong earthquake in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, January 2

A view of a damaged home and vehicles following a strong earthquake in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, January 2

A two-storey house with its first floor collapsed caused by powerful earthquake is seen Tuesday, January 2

A two-storey house with its first floor collapsed caused by powerful earthquake is seen Tuesday, January 2

In this aerial image, collapsed houses are seen at Shoinmachi district after multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2

In this aerial image, collapsed houses are seen at Shoinmachi district after multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2

In this aerial image, collapsed houses are seen at Iidamachi district after multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2

In this aerial image, collapsed houses are seen at Iidamachi district after multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2

In this aerial image, collapsed buildingsare seen after multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2, 2024 in Suzu, Ishikawa

In this aerial image, collapsed buildingsare seen after multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2, 2024 in Suzu, Ishikawa

Japan’s meteorological agency said that the earthquake‘s magnitude of 7.6 is the largest ever recorded in the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture.

Japan’s TBS News earlier reported police said two individuals in Ishikawa died having suffered cardiac arrests as a result of the quakes. 

The earthquakes triggered fears of a tsunami, with the meteorological agency initially warning citizens to brace for waves of up to 5 metres (16.4ft). Officials later downgraded the major warning to a regular tsunami warning.

But a spokesman from Japan’s meteorological agency warned there is still a ‘very high risk’ of buildings collapsing, and strong tremors could continue for the ‘next two to three days’.

‘Do not wander away from the safe place,’ he said. ‘There is a very high risk of buildings collapsing and other damages caused by the tremors. History tells us that the similar scale of earthquakes can reoccur within two to three days.’

People pick up items from the shelves of a damaged drugstore after receiving permission to take goods for free, in the aftermath of an earthquake, in Anamizu, Ishikawa prefecture

People pick up items from the shelves of a damaged drugstore after receiving permission to take goods for free, in the aftermath of an earthquake, in Anamizu, Ishikawa prefecture

A view of the collapsed Sakakibara shrine following a strong earthquake in Kohoku, Ishikawa Prefecture

A view of the collapsed Sakakibara shrine following a strong earthquake in Kohoku, Ishikawa Prefecture

A damaged car stands near a collapsed house, following an earthquake, in Nanao, Ishikawa prefecture

A damaged car stands near a collapsed house, following an earthquake, in Nanao, Ishikawa prefecture

Police officers conduct a search operation at a destroyed house following an earthquake in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

Police officers conduct a search operation at a destroyed house following an earthquake in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

A building falls on the ground following an earthquake in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan, Tuesday, January 2

A building falls on the ground following an earthquake in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan, Tuesday, January 2

This aerial photo provided by Jiji Press shows the Hokuriku Electric Power Shika nuclear power plant in Shika, Ishikawa prefecture on January 2

This aerial photo provided by Jiji Press shows the Hokuriku Electric Power Shika nuclear power plant in Shika, Ishikawa prefecture on January 2

People stand next to large cracks in the pavement after evacuating into a street in the city of Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture on January 1, 2024

People stand next to large cracks in the pavement after evacuating into a street in the city of Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture on January 1, 2024

Damaged houses following an earthquake in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan Tuesday, January 2

Damaged houses following an earthquake in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan Tuesday, January 2

Police officers conduct a search operation at a destroyed house following an earthquake in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

Police officers conduct a search operation at a destroyed house following an earthquake in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

The contents of a store are seen spilled over the ground following heavy tremors in Japan

The contents of a store are seen spilled over the ground following heavy tremors in Japan

Books are scattered at a bookstore in Niigata, Japan following an earthquake Monday, Jan. 1, 2024

Books are scattered at a bookstore in Niigata, Japan following an earthquake Monday, Jan. 1, 2024

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Waves can be seen sloshing through the middle of the city following the earthquake, an unsettling reminder that a large tsunami could be on its way

Customers crouch following an earthquake at a supermarket in Toyama, Japan Sunday, Jan 1, 2024. Japan issued tsunami alerts and told people to evacuate seaside areas after a series of strong quakes on its western coastline Monday

Customers crouch following an earthquake at a supermarket in Toyama, Japan Sunday, Jan 1, 2024. Japan issued tsunami alerts and told people to evacuate seaside areas after a series of strong quakes on its western coastline Monday

The country’s meteorological agency reported the first big waves hit Wajima port in Ishikawa prefecture at 4:21pm local time just as darkness fell on the region.

A major tsunami warning was issued for Ishikawa as well as lower-level tsunami alerts or advisories for the rest of the western coast of the island of Honshu, as Japanese public broadcaster NHK TV urged people to flee to high land or to the top of nearby buildings.

‘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,’ a presenter on broadcaster NHK told viewers.

The tsunami waves could keep returning, according to the network, as warnings continued to be aired nearly an hour after the initial alert.

The threat was later downgraded to a regular warning. 

The Japanese government has set up a special emergency centre to gather information on the quakes and tsunami and relay them speedily to residents to ensure safety, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters. 

But the effects of the earthquake were expected further afield than just Japan. 

Russia‘s emergencies ministry said that parts of the western coast Sakhalin island, situated close to Japan on Russia’s Pacific seaboard, were also under threat of tsunami, and that the local population was being evacuated, state news agency TASS reported. 

North Korea issued tsunami warnings for its east coast saying waves of up to 2.08 meters (6.8 ft) can reach its shore, Yonhap news reported citing the North’s state radio.

And South Korea’s meteorological agency earlier said sea levels in some parts of the Gangwon province on the east coast may rise after the earthquakes.

Shoppers crouch down as an earthquake hit the region at a supermarket in Toyama, Japan January 1, 2024

Shoppers crouch down as an earthquake hit the region at a supermarket in Toyama, Japan January 1, 2024

A roof is seen collapsed in this image shared on social media following an earthquake

A roof is seen collapsed in this image shared on social media following an earthquake

Surface of a parking lot cracks due to an earthquake, in Uchinada Town, Kahoku District, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan, January 1, 2024

Surface of a parking lot cracks due to an earthquake, in Uchinada Town, Kahoku District, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan, January 1, 2024

People evacuate to higher ground at a parking space of a junior high school after a tsunami warning issued following an earthquake in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

People evacuate to higher ground at a parking space of a junior high school after a tsunami warning issued following an earthquake in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture

Water leaks from the ceiling inside the Kanazawa station, after an earthquake hit Ishikawa, Japan, January 1, 2024

Water leaks from the ceiling inside the Kanazawa station, after an earthquake hit Ishikawa, Japan, January 1, 2024

A torii gate is damaged after an earthquake at a shrine in Kanazawa, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan, Monday, Jan. 1, 2024

A torii gate is damaged after an earthquake at a shrine in Kanazawa, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan, Monday, Jan. 1, 2024

People stand near a collapsed torii gate caused by an earthquake at Onohiyoshi Shrine in Kanazawa, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan, January 1, 2024, in this photo released by Kyodo

People stand near a collapsed torii gate caused by an earthquake at Onohiyoshi Shrine in Kanazawa, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan, January 1, 2024, in this photo released by Kyodo

People walk along a road damaged by an earthquake, in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan January 1, 2024

People walk along a road damaged by an earthquake, in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan January 1, 2024

A house is seen collapsing amid an earthquake in Suzu, Ishikawa prefecture

A house is seen collapsing amid an earthquake in Suzu, Ishikawa prefecture

What causes tsunamis? 

A tsunami is a series of giant waves that are created by a disturbance in the ocean.

The disturbance could be a landslide, a volcanic eruption, an earthquake or a meteorite; the culprit is most often an earthquake.

If the landslide or earthquake triggering the tsunami occurs nearby the shore, inhabitants could see its effects almost immediately.

Areas that are closer to sea level have a higher risk of being affected by the waves.

In the case of an earthquake, the sea floor only needs to be uplifted by a few metres to displace several cubic kilometres of water and send a series of waves outwards.

The tsunami waves travel away from the earthquake epicentre in all directions. 

The height of the tsunami waves on shore depends on several factors, such as the distance and direction from the earthquake epicentre, the depth and shape of the sea floor, and shape of the coast line.

The Japanese government will hold a news conference later in the day, with reports of any damage not immediately available.

Several major highways were closed, the road operator said, and Shinkansen bullet train services were also suspended between Tokyo and the epicentre in the Noto region in Ishikawa prefecture on the Sea of Japan side of Japan’s main island of Honshu.

Around 33,500 households on the western coast of Honshu were left without power, according to local utilities.

Takashi Wakabayashi, a worker at a convenience store in Ishikawa Prefecture, said some items had tumbled from the shelves following the tremors, but the biggest problem was the huge crowd of people who had shown up to stock up on bottled water, rice balls and bread.

‘We have customers at three times the level of usual,’ he said.

Fears are mounting that Japan’s coastal nuclear power plants could be affected in the wake of the quake. 

But operators have confirmed that no issues have been detected yet. 

‘It has been confirmed that there are no abnormalities at Shika nuclear power plant (in Ishikawa) and other stations as of now,’ government spokesman Yoshimasa Hayashi said.

‘Every minute counts. Please evacuate to a safe area immediately,’ he added. 

Hokuriku Electric Power, Tokyo Electric Power Co, and Kansai Electric Power operate several nuclear power plants along the coastline that could be struck by tsunamis.

Meanwhile in South Korea, officials in Gangwon province warned residents to take precautions and evacuate to higher grounds in anticipation of a potential tsunami.

A tsunami warning is shown on TV in Yokohama today after earthquakes in the Sea of Japan

A tsunami warning is shown on TV in Yokohama today after earthquakes in the Sea of Japan

Local people get evacuated to the shelter at Joetsushi Total Gymnastics on January 01, 2024 in Joetsu, Japan

Local people get evacuated to the shelter at Joetsushi Total Gymnastics on January 01, 2024 in Joetsu, Japan

People evacuate to higher ground at a parking space of a junior high school

People evacuate to higher ground at a parking space of a junior high school

People crouch following an earthquake at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, western Japan Monday, Dec. 1, 2024

People crouch following an earthquake at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, western Japan Monday, Dec. 1, 2024

Items fall from shelves on the ground inside a store as an earthquake hits

Items fall from shelves on the ground inside a store as an earthquake hits

An online video purportedly shows a house collapsing in Ishikawa during today's earthquake

An online video purportedly shows a house collapsing in Ishikawa during today’s earthquake

This image taken in Hong Kong on January 1, 2024 shows a warning message on a screen from a live feed on NHK World asking people to evacuate from the area after a series of major earthquakes hit central Japan

This image taken in Hong Kong on January 1, 2024 shows a warning message on a screen from a live feed on NHK World asking people to evacuate from the area after a series of major earthquakes hit central Japan

A road sign informs drivers to exit the expressway due to earthquakes in Oyabe City of Toyama Prefecture of Japan

A road sign informs drivers to exit the expressway due to earthquakes in Oyabe City of Toyama Prefecture of Japan

Strong waves began lashing the coastlines of Western Japan as night fell

Strong waves began lashing the coastlines of Western Japan as night fell

A map from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) shows the location of the earthquake hitting the Noto region of Ishikawa prefecture in Japan today

A map from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) shows the location of the earthquake hitting the Noto region of Ishikawa prefecture in Japan today

Japan has strict construction regulations intended to ensure buildings can withstand strong earthquakes and routinely holds emergency drills to prepare for a major jolt.

Buildings are reinforced with concrete walls and special joints that ease stress when the ground shakes.

Meanwhile, skyscrapers are built with shock absorbers and ‘elastic architecture’ that allows them to flex horizontally. 

But the country is haunted by the memory of a massive 9.0-magnitude undersea quake off northeastern Japan in March 2011, which triggered a tsunami that left around 18,500 people dead or missing.

The 2011 tsunami also sent three reactors into meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing Japan’s worst post-war disaster and the most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

In March 2022, a 7.4-magnitude quake off the coast of Fukushima shook large areas of eastern Japan, killing three people.

The capital Tokyo was devastated by a huge earthquake a century ago in 1923.

While it is not possible to predict exactly where and when earthquakes will hit, we know the worst events will be along Earth’s plate boundaries – and much of Japan is located across one such boundary.

Honshu, Japan’s main island, lies at the intersection between three tectonic plates – Eurasian, Philippine and North American. 

In Japan, participation in natural disaster drills begins in kindergarten and all Japanese cell phones come with an earthquake alert system, potentially giving users a 5 to 10-second window to seek shelter before the quake strikes.



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