64 Confirmed Dead after Jan. 1 Noto Peninsula Earthquake; Fire Razes Famous Wajima Market; Tsunami Hits Suzu Buildings (UPDATE 3)

Yomiuri Shimbun photos
Top: An aerial view of central Wajima is seen on Wednesday morning following a massive fire caused by the Noto Peninsula Earthquake on Monday.
Bottom: The coastal area of Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture, is seen Tuesday morning after many buildings are believed to have been washed away by tsunami triggered by Monday’s powerful earthquake that hit the area.

A powerful earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.6 hit the Noto area of Ishikawa Prefecture on Monday, centered in the town of Shika. A total of 64 people were confirmed dead in the prefecture, according the Ishikawa prefectural government and the Wajima city government.

According to the prefectural and city governments, 31 people died in Wajima, 22 in Suzu, five in Nanao, two in Anamizu and one in Hakui and Shika respectively.

On the Japanese seismic intensity scale, the quake measured 7 — the highest level — in Shika. It registered upper 6 elsewhere in the prefecture, including the cities of Nanao and Wajima, and strong tremors were also felt widely in Niigata and Toyama prefectures. Many people are believed to have been trapped in collapsed buildings.

A major tsunami warning was also issued. In Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture, buildings were washed away by tsunami.

The central government has set up an emergency disaster control headquarters. “Rescuing those affected is a race against time,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at a meeting of the headquarters at the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday morning. “I want you to make every effort by giving top priority on ensuring the safety of local residents.”

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the quake occurred at a depth of 16 kilometers at about 4:10 p.m. on Monday. This is the first time an earthquake registering 7 has been observed in Japan since a quake rocked the Iburi area of Hokkaido in September 2018.

In addition to the death toll, there have been also many reports of injuries in Ishikawa Prefecture. In other prefectures, people also sustained injuries, such as a fracture due to a fall during evacuation, with 24 cases in Toyama, 21 in Niigata, five in Fukui, two in Hyogo and one in Gifu.

Fires broke out in various locations in Ishikawa Prefecture. According to the local fire department, about 200 houses and other structures burned down in the vicinity of the Wajima morning market street, a famous tourist spot in Wajima, and firefighting efforts were continuing.

In addition to the major tsunami warning for Noto, Ishikawa Prefecture, the meteorological agency issued tsunami warnings for Yamagata, Niigata, Toyama, Fukui, Ishikawa and Hyogo prefectures on Monday. Tsunami waves of more than 1.2 meters were recorded in Wajima, while Kanazawa observed smaller waves of 0.9 meters. Waves of 0.8 meters were confirmed in Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture, and also in Toyama City.

All the warnings were lifted by 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

Public transportation services have also been disrupted. Operations on the Joetsu and Hokuriku Shinkansen lines continued to be partially suspended on Tuesday morning.

Seismic activity in and around the Noto area has been active, with three quakes measuring upper 5 and six quakes measuring lower 5 observed by 11 a.m. on Tuesday.

The agency has urged people to be alert for quakes with an intensity of up to 7 for about a week.