Dozens dead in Japan quake

Dozens of people have been killed in a violent earthquake that razed buildings and set others ablaze on Japan’s western coast.

By Alastair Wanklyn

At least 48 people died in western Japan when an earthquake razed houses. The magnitude-7 quake struck beneath the sea bed close to the city of Wajima, in western Japan.

Residents told Japanese media the shaking was so strong they could not stand up. Buildings fell, and a fire ripped through around 200 wooden homes and shops in Wajima city center. Rescue workers sawed through wooden beams to reach people trapped under rubble.

The Wajima fire department was quoted saying authorities were overwhelmed by rescue requests. Some roads were broken or blocked with debris.

Tens of thousands of people fled their homes in Japan’s Kanazawa, Toyama, and Ishikawa prefectures, some of them because the homes suffered minor structural damage. Water and gas supplies halted. Local authorities opened schools and other public buildings as evacuation centers.

Residents rest at an evacuation shelter in Japan

Residents rest at an evacuation shelter in Japan

Church praying for victims

The Archbishop of Tokyo said in a statement the Church is praying for the victims.

Archbishop Tarcisio Kikuchi added that a team from the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Japan is assessing the damage before the Church decides its response.

Japan’s defense minister said around 11,000 troops were on the ground or heading there.

The quake struck as darkness fell on the first day of 2024. Although it was a public holiday, Japan has well-rehearsed plans for disaster contingencies. Coastal residents fled for higher ground, prompted by automatic cellphone alerts and by lessons learned after a tsunami 12 years ago killed around 20,000 people.

In this instance, the tsunami was only a meter or so in height and did little damage, but the alert system appeared to work.