A powerful earthquake struck the Hokuriku region early Sunday, killing at least one person, injuring about 170 and damaging hundreds of houses while sending small tsunami toward the Sea of Japan coastline.
The magnitude-6.9 quake struck at 9:42 a.m. off the north coast of Ishikawa Prefecture, the Meteorological Agency said, generating 10- to 20-cm tsunami that hit parts of the Sea of Japan coast about a half hour later.
The quake started under the ocean about 30 km southwest of Wajima, shaking up Ishikawa, Toyama and Niigata prefectures and cutting electricity to some 160,000 households.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Kansai Electric Power Co. said their nuclear reactors in Niigata and Fukui prefectures were operating normally.
The quake also crippled public transportation, including Noto airport, and cut water to about 9,500 households.
Wajima resident Kiyomi Miyakoshi, 52, died at a hospital after a stone lantern in her garden collapsed on her during the quake, police in the city said.
The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said 170 injuries had been reported as of 9 p.m. About 70 percent of the injured were in the cities of Wajima and Nanao in Ishikawa Prefecture.
“I felt like the house was being lifted, and after that it shook wildly,” said a 77-year-old man who was watching TV at home in Wajima at the time. “I thought I would be thrown several meters to the side.”
Zuihei Ikeda, the owner of a stone materials shop in Nanao, got jolted in the middle of a business deal.
“Stone lanterns and stone Buddhist statues fell off one after another, and the tiles on the warehouse’s roof sprang up. I think the damage will cost me more than 70 million yen,” the 72-year-old man said.
The Meteorological Agency said the quake’s focus was about 11 km under the sea off the Noto Peninsula. The agency immediately issued a tsunami warning for the region but lifted it at 11:30 a.m.
Takeshi Hachimine, seismology and tsunami section chief at the agency, said the region was not considered a quake-prone area. The last major quake that caused a casualty there struck in 1933, when three people died.
He warned that aftershocks were expected.
“After the powerful earthquake, aftershocks will continue,” Hachimine said. “All residents, especially those who are near the hardest-hit areas, are advised to use extra caution. Aftershocks could further damage what’s been already fragile.”
The Noto area has already been rattled by more than 130 aftershocks.
In Wajima, which took the brunt of the damage, 44 houses collapsed and more than 200 were seriously damaged, causing about 1,800 people to take shelter in elementary schools and other buildings, the Ishikawa Prefectural Government said.
“I have ordered (the government) to work toward securing the citizens’ safety and take all possible measures to rescue them,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters at his official residence.
At an urgently convened news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said police, firefighters and the Self-Defense Forces were preparing emergency relief efforts.
About 30 Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers arrived in the area in the afternoon to gather information and assist with rescue operations. They served meals to evacuees at schools in the evening.
Kensei Mizote, state minister for disaster management, arrived at an Air Self-Defense Force base in Wajima in the evening, the government said.
The National Police Agency decided to dispatch about 400 members of the Aichi, Gifu, Fukui and Niigata prefectural police forces to the quake-hit area. Police in Ishikawa Prefecture said there were several reports of landslides.
Meanwhile, about 160,000 households in Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures are without electricity, and travel on expressways was limited by damage and closures.
West Japan Railway Co. said services had been suspended in Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures but that no derailments or passenger injuries were reported.
Noto airport was closed after cracks were found in the runways. All Nippon Airways Co. said the airline had suspended flights between Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and Noto.