For a long moment, Japan feared the worst.
After the magnitude 7.6 earthquake that struck on New Year’s Day, authorities announced the most serious tsunami alert issued since the 2011 disaster that devastated the Tohoku region. Waves of up to 5 meters (16 feet) were feared. The temblor caused tremors on the highest level on Japan’s shindo shaking scale for only the seventh time on record. A major calamity felt imminent.
The Noto region has indeed experienced a devastating blow. At the time of writing, nearly 50 were confirmed dead; more will follow as authorities reach houses that have been flattened or burned. But the greatest fears in the immediate aftermath haven’t yet been realized — though, with both 2011 and the 2016 Kumamoto quakes having been preceded by strong foreshocks, further catastrophe could strike.