Massive earthquake hits Japan; nearly 100,000 ordered to evacuate

A powerful earthquake struck central Japan Monday, killing at least one person, destroying buildings, causing power outages for thousands, and leading to evacuation orders for nearly 100,000 residents in coastal areas.

The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 7.6, triggered waves up to 1 meter along Japan’s west coast and in South Korea. The Japan Meteorological Agency initially issued a major tsunami warning for Ishikawa prefecture, later downgrading it to an advisory. This was the first major tsunami warning since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed about 20,000 in northeast Japan.

The U.S. Geological Survey said it was the strongest quake in the region in over 40 years. Buildings were destroyed, fires broke out, and army personnel were deployed for rescue operations, said government spokesperson Yoshimasa Hayashi.

An elderly man died in Ishikawa’s Shika Town when a building collapsed, NTV reported, citing local police. Footage from Suzu showed a building collapsing, and in Wajima, a road was severely cracked.

Social media users posted footage, including one showing the Keta Grand Shrine in Hakui swaying during the quake.

Millions in Japan visit shrines and temples on Jan. 1. In Kanazawa, a tourist spot, images showed a destroyed stone gate at a shrine. The quake was also felt in Nagano, where Taiwanese tourist Jonny Wu described snow falling from wires and rooftops.

Toshihiro Shimoyama, a JMA official, warned of more quakes in the region. Russia and North Korea also issued tsunami warnings.

The Japanese government said more than 97,000 people in nine prefectures were ordered to evacuate, many sheltering in sports halls and schools. Ayako Daikai, a Kanazawa resident, said she evacuated to a school with her family, with no immediate plans to return home.