A strong earthquake struck central Japan, killing at least one person and injuring 21 others, while rescuers are searching for the last one trapped under the rubble after several houses collapsed.
The 6.5-magnitude quake hit the central Ishikawa prefecture in mid-afternoon Friday at a depth of 12 km, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.
Weather officials warned residents of the possibility of aftershocks and landslides in the coming days, but said there was no danger of a tsunami.
“There was a big and long earthquake that lasted about two minutes. I was scared because the shaking kept on and on,” a local government official in Suzu City, who declined to be named, told public broadcaster NHK.
Government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters in the capital, Tokyo, that one person had been reported dead and “multiple reports of collapsed buildings.”
The victim fell down a ladder, an official of the Suzhou Crisis Management told AFP, adding that 21 other people were injured.
The local fire and disaster management agency said at least three buildings were destroyed, with two people trapped inside.
One of them has been pulled from the rubble and sent to the hospital and rescuers are searching for the other.
Footage from NHK showed destroyed or tilted traditional wooden houses with broken windows and damaged roofs. In the aerial footage, a collapsed mountainside can be seen.
Today is a public holiday in Japan, part of a series of holidays known as “Golden Week,” a time when many people travel for leisure or to visit family.
Shinkansen express trains between the cities of Nagano and Kanazawa, a popular tourist destination, were suspended, but resumed less than two hours later, according to Japan Railways.
The earthquake registered a high six on the Japanese Shindo seismic scale, which has a maximum of seven.
The USGS estimated the magnitude to be 6.2 and said it struck off the coast, but the Japan Meteorological Agency has placed the epicenter on land.
Japan’s disaster prevention minister, Koichi Tani, said there have been reports of multiple landslides and some local residents have taken refuge in evacuation shelters.
‘ring of fire’
Earthquakes are common in Japan, which sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches across Southeast Asia and across the Pacific Basin.
However, Japan has strict construction regulations aimed at ensuring that buildings can withstand strong earthquakes and routinely conducts emergency drills in preparation for a major shock.
A 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck a fishing village in the same area in 2007, injuring hundreds and damaging more than 200 buildings on the Noto Peninsula.
The peninsula is a rural area on the coast of the Sea of Japan that is famous for its natural scenery.
Japan is haunted by the memory of the massive 9.0-magnitude undersea earthquake off its northeast in March 2011, which triggered a tsunami that left some 18,500 people dead or missing.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster caused the meltdown of three of the plant’s six nuclear reactors
The 2011 tsunami also caused the meltdown of three reactors at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, causing the worst post-war disaster and the deadliest nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
Hirokazu Matsuno said no anomalies were detected at the Shiga and Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plants in the area affected by Friday’s quake.
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