NIIGATA – Most schools and trains in quake-hit areas on the Sea of Japan coast resumed operations on Thursday, the latest signs of recovery from the magnitude 6.7 earthquake Tuesday that caused landslides and power outages and left dozens of people injured.
Children returned to elementary and junior high schools in the hardest-hit cities of Murakami in Niigata Prefecture and Tsuruoka in Yamagata Prefecture, with the exception of some areas.
“I am thankful they are coming here safe and sound,” said Satoshi Oda, principal of Murakami Minami Elementary School. The school confirmed the safety of all of its 295 students shortly after the quake.
“I called my friends and heard they were okay, but seeing their faces was a relief,” said 11-year-old Aoi Aizawa, who returned to her elementary school in Tsuruoka.
The JR Uetsu Line resumed services Thursday morning after facilities were checked and repair work completed between Murakami and Tsuruoka stations. Trains will not stop at Koiwagawa Station in Tsuruoka, however, as part of the station platform remains tilted.
The Murakami Municipal Government, meanwhile, began inspecting damage to residential buildings in the Fuya district, which has a total of about 400 households.
Eighteen inspectors working in pairs placed red, yellow or green cards on each building depending on the seriousness of the damage, with red indicating it is dangerous to enter, yellow signaling that people should be cautious and green indicating that the residence is habitable. They are scheduled to complete their work by Saturday.
The quake occurred at around 10:22 p.m. Tuesday at a depth of about 14 kilometers, with its epicenter located off Yamagata Prefecture in the Sea of Japan, according to the Meteorological Agency. A tsunami advisory was issued but lifted hours later.
At least 30 people were injured. The largest number of injuries were reported in Yamagata Prefecture, followed by Miyagi, Niigata, Akita and Ishikawa prefectures.
A 27-year-old Vietnamese woman training at a sewing factory in Murakami’s Fuya district recalled the horror of waking up to the big jolt.
The woman, who came to Japan in January last year as part of the government’s technical intern program, said she had never experienced an earthquake back home.
“I was scared and thought this is the end,” she said, recalling how dishes broke, a refrigerator door swung open and chairs fell over.
She huddled together with eight other trainees in front of her dorm’s entrance, covering herself with a blanket, but ran to higher ground after Minoru Onozuka, 71, president of their company, came to tell them that a tsunami was coming. They waited until the tsunami advisory was lifted at around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.
“It was something I never want to experience again,” the woman said.
The weather agency had said heavy rain and lightning may hit the quake-affected region Thursday afternoon, heightening the risks of mudslides as the ground has loosened in some areas due to the temblor.