Major Japan quake triggers tsunami waves, residents told to run

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TOKYO: Tsunami waves over a metre high hit central Japan on Monday after a huge earthquake that damaged homes, set off a major fire and prompted authorities to urge people to run to higher ground.

Media reports said two people were feared dead after the 7.5-magnitude quake struck Ishikawa prefecture on the Sea of Japan side of the main island of Honshu at 4:10 pm (0710 GMT), according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).

Japanese authorities put the magnitude at 7.6 and said that it was one of more than 50 quakes of 3.2 magnitude or more to rock the region on the New Year´s Day holiday — when families get together and visit shrines — over several hours.

Television channels interrupted normal services with special programming including of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida urging people in danger areas to “evacuate as soon as possible” to higher ground.

“We realise your home, your belongings are all precious to you, but your lives are important above everything else! Run to the highest ground possible,” an alarmed presenter on broadcaster NHK told viewers.

Waves at least 1.2 meters (four feet) high hit the Wajima port and a series of smaller tsunamis were reported elsewhere, including as far away as the northern island of Hokkaido.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) initially issued a “large tsunami” warning, meaning waves of up to five metres.

But no further major incidents were reported and the JMA later downgraded its warning to tsunamis of up to three metres.

The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center also said around four hours after the major quake that the tsunami danger had “largely passed”.

Russia also issued a tsunami alert for Sakhalin island and Vladivostok in its far east. North Korea reportedly followed suit. The JMA warned local residents of possible further quakes during the coming week or so, particularly within the next two to three days.The government said it was still assessing the extent of damage and whether there had been any casualties from the quake, which shook apartments in the capital Tokyo some 300 kilometres (190 miles) away. Images on social media showed cars and houses in Ishikawa shaking violently and terrified people cowering in shops and train stations. Houses collapsed and huge cracks appeared in roads.

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