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Earthquake Hits Japan

On Tuesday, Japan grappled with assessing the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that struck its western coast, causing significant destruction. The quake, which had a preliminary magnitude of 7.6, occurred on Monday afternoon and led to the death of at least a dozen people. It severely damaged buildings and major roads, cut power to numerous homes amid cold temperatures, and caused about 1-meter-high tsunami waves along Japan’s western seaboard.

The U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center confirmed no tsunami threat to the western coast of North America. Canadian officials reported no Canadian citizens affected, with consular support ready if needed.

In response, thousands of military personnel, firefighters, and police from across Japan were deployed to the heavily affected Noto peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture. Rescue efforts faced challenges due to extensively damaged and blocked roads, and a local airport was closed due to runway cracks.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in an emergency meeting, emphasized the urgency of rescue operations, particularly in the Noto peninsula’s northern areas where access was difficult.

Local reports confirmed more than a dozen fatalities, with a significant blaze in Wajima, near the quake’s epicenter. The national police agency confirmed six deaths, and 19 people were reported in cardiac arrest.

The Japan Meteorological Agency recorded over 140 aftershocks since Monday and warned of potential strong shocks in the days ahead. U.S. President Joe Biden offered American assistance to Japan.

Following the quake, about 97,000 people were evacuated to emergency shelters. While some returned home after tsunami warnings were lifted, tens of thousands remained without power and water in Ishikawa prefecture.

In light of the disaster, Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako canceled their New Year appearance, and Prime Minister Kishida postponed his visit to Ise Shrine.

The earthquake raised concerns for Japan’s nuclear industry, still facing opposition since the 2011 Fukushima disaster. However, no irregularities were reported at nuclear plants along the Sea of Japan, including those near the quake’s epicenter.

Kokusai Electric is assessing damage at its Toyama factory, while transport authorities reported a shutdown of an Ishikawa airport due to runway damage. Japanese airlines ANA and Japan Airlines adjusted their flight services to the affected regions. The quake was felt as far as Tokyo, 500 km away, and triggered tsunami warnings in Russia and North Korea.

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