Japan has lifted its highest tsunami warning issued after a series of powerful earthquakes on Monday, but is urging residents in coastal areas not to return to their homes because of the ongoing tsunami threat.
The largest earthquake, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, caused fires and building collapses along the west coast of Japan’s main island of Honshu and has so far killed at least 48 people, Japan’s Kyodo News agency reported, according to AFP.
The Japan Meteorological Agency reported more than a dozen quakes in the Sea of Japan off the coast of Ishikawa and nearby prefectures on Monday morning. At least six houses were damaged by the quakes, with people trapped inside, government spokesman Yoshimasa Hayashi said. A fire broke out in the city of Wajima, and more than 30,000 households lost power.
The agency initially issued a major tsunami warning for Ishikawa and lower-level tsunami warnings or advisories for the rest of the west coast of Honshu and the northernmost of the main islands, Hokkaido. The warning was downgraded to a regular tsunami a few hours later, meaning waves of up to 3 meters could still occur. Aftershocks could also hit the same area in the coming days, officials warned. Nearly 100,000 people have been ordered to evacuate their homes and four people have been confirmed dead as a result of the earthquakes.
According to the Japan Nuclear Energy Agency, the earthquakes did not cause damage to any of the nuclear power plants along the Japanese coast. Particular attention is being paid to the Shika nuclear power plant, located near the epicenter of the quake, where two reactors were closed for inspection at the time of the quake. This is, of course, an important point in light of the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant caused by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami waves in 2011.
In an official statement, US President Joe Biden emphasizes the deep bonds of friendship between Japan and the US and announces that his administration is in contact with Japanese officials and stands ready to offer any assistance needed at this difficult time.