WAJIMA, Japan (AP) — At least 55 people have died and thousands of buildings, vehicles and boats have been damaged in a series of powerful earthquakes that have struck western Japan. Officials warned of more aftershocks on Tuesday.
A day later earthquakes continued to rock Ishikawa Prefecture and nearby areas 7.6 tremors on the Richter scale lit in the area.
The damage was too extensive to immediately assess. Japanese media reported that tens of thousands of houses were destroyed.
Government spokesman Yoshimasa Hayashi said he knew of the prefecture's toll, saying 17 people were seriously injured and the death toll was slightly lower.
Water, electricity and cell phone service were still disrupted in some areas. Residents lamented their uncertain future.
“It's not just a mess. The wall has collapsed, let's move to the next room. I don't think we can live here anymore,” said Miki Kobayashi, an Ishikawa resident, as he swept around his house.
He said the house was also damaged in the 2007 earthquake.
Although the death toll rose steadily, immediate public warnings, broadcast on radio and telephone, and the rapid response of the public and authorities limited some of the damage.
Tokyo University professor Toshidaka Katata, who specializes in disasters, said people in the area, which has been hit by earthquakes in recent years, are prepared. They had evacuation plans and emergency supplies in stock.
“No one on Earth is more prepared for disaster than the Japanese,” he told The Associated Press.
Japan is frequently affected by earthquakes due to its location along the “Ring of Fire”, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific basin.
Katta warned that the situation is dangerous and unpredictable. The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan were preceded by other earthquakes.
“It's a long way off,” Katada said.
Scientists' predictions have been proven wrong many times The 2016 earthquake in southwestern KumamotoAn area previously seen as earthquake-free.
“It is very dangerous to have too much faith in the power of science. We are dealing with nature,” Katada said.
Aerial footage from Japanese media showed widespread damage in hard-hit areas, with landslides burying roads, boats tossed into the water and a fire that burned entire parts of the city of Wajima.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Tuesday that Japan's military has sent 1,000 soldiers to the disaster areas to join rescue efforts.
“Saving lives is our priority and we are racing against time,” he said. “It is critical that people trapped in their homes are rescued immediately.”
As he spoke, a 5.6-magnitude earthquake hit the Ishikawa area. Earthquakes continue to rock the region, reaching more than 100 aftershocks in the past day.
Nuclear regulators said several nuclear power plants in the region were operating normally. 2011 earthquake and tsunami Melted down three reactors And a nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan releases high levels of radiation.
On Monday, the Japan Meteorological Agency issued a major tsunami warning for Ishikawa and lower-level tsunami warnings or advisories for the rest of the west coast of Japan's main island of Honshu and the northern island of Hokkaido.
The warning was downgraded several hours later, and all tsunami warnings were lifted early Tuesday morning. Waves of up to one meter (3 feet) hit some places.
Still, half-submerged ships floated in bays where tsunami waves had rolled in, leaving behind a muddy beach.
Evacuees crowded into auditoriums, schools and community centers. Bullet trains were suspended in the region, but service was mostly restored by Tuesday afternoon. Some parts of the highways were closed.
Weather forecasters predicted rain, raising concerns about collapsing buildings and infrastructure.
The region includes tourist spots famous for lacquer ware and other traditional handicrafts, as well as designated cultural heritage sites.
US President Joe Biden said in a statement that his administration “stands ready to provide whatever assistance the Japanese people need.”
Kageyama reported from Tokyo. Videographer Richard Colombo contributed from Wajima.
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