A powerful 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan on Monday, triggering tsunami warnings and collapsing buildings along the country’s western coast. Over 90 people have been killed by the initial quake and aftershocks, with many more missing as rescuers dig through rubble searching for survivors.
The epicenter was located about 50 miles west of Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture, but the shaking was felt as far away as Tokyo. Multiple strong aftershocks have continued to rock the region, hampering rescue efforts.
While initial tsunami warnings urged over 200,000 residents to evacuate coastal areas, the waves ended up only reaching 3-10 feet high. However some elderly residents died after getting trapped while following evacuation protocols.
Lead Up to the Disaster
Japan is located along the seismically active “Ring of Fire” and is no stranger to earthquakes.
Strict building codes enacted after the 2011 Fukushima disaster helped minimize damage from this week’s quake. However, rural areas with older architecture saw heavy impacts.
The Japan Meteorological Agency had been warning of increased seismic risk in the lead-up to Monday’s quake, but the massive tremor still took many citizens by surprise.
A massive search and rescue operation is currently underway, with over 10,000 police, fire department personnel, coast guard officials, and Self Defense Force troops deployed to the most affected prefectures of Ishikawa, Toyama, and Yamagata.
However cold winter weather, snow, power outages, landslides, and over 300 aftershocks have hampered rescue progress. Efforts have focused on reaching isolated communities and digging people out of collapsed wooden houses.
|Number of Missing Person Reports
|Yamagata Prefecture – 37 people
|Toyama Prefecture – 35 people
|Ishikawa Prefecture – 15 people
Emergency responders emphasize that the number of missing could increase as better assessments are made of the widespread destruction.
- The US and South Korean militaries have sent planes to help transport rescue personnel and aid supplies.
- Singapore, Thailand, and Turkey have all pledged financial support for recovery efforts.
- The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has dispatched disaster response teams.
- Pope Francis offered condolences and encouragement to those impacted by the earthquake.
According to seismologists, there is a 20-30% chance of another 7+ magnitude quake occurring in the next few days around Ishikawa. The earth’s crust is still adjusting to the tension release from Monday’s upheaval.
The meteorological agency has urged maximum caution regarding landslides, tsunamis, and building damage from potential aftershocks.
While initial tsunami waves were relatively small, experts warn stronger tsunami may still be triggered by subsequent seabed displacements.
Long Term Outlook
In addition to search efforts, providing shelter, food, water and medical care to survivors now homeless in frigid temperatures is an urgent priority for local governments.
Billions of dollars of infrastructure damage has been reported across roads, bridges, rail lines, ports, dams, power plants and manufacturing facilities. While rebuilding will progress over the coming decade, industries vital to the national economy face short term supply chain difficulties.
Nevertheless, experts praise Japan’s strict building codes and early warning systems for preventing an even worse disaster. The country’s long history of earthquakes has given it unmatched emergency preparedness capacities amongst quake-prone nations.
With dozens still missing a week later, the search for survivors continues to take priority before transitioning towards permanent rebuilding efforts.
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