Satellite images show mass destruction to Japan’s west coast and inner cities after a series of powerful earthquakes hit the country on Monday.
The Japan Meteorological Agency reported 21 earthquakes registering 4.0 magnitude or stronger striking central Japan in a span of just over an hour and half. One quake was an estimated 7. 6 magnitude quake, according to JMA.
The event triggered tsunami warnings, which were eventually lifted. Some nearly 4-foot-high waves were seen in the city of Wajima and nearly 3-foot-high waves in Kanazawa, reported NHK, a Japanese public broadcaster.
The earthquake has left thousands of people without electricity. Search and rescue teams are still searching for people trapped in the rubble.
In the town of Suzu, near the quake’s epicenter, 90% of houses might have been destroyed, according to the town’s mayor, Masuhiro Izumiya, Reuters reported.
” “The situation is disastrous,” he stated, according to Reuters.
The event was so powerful that the ground shifted, rising by over 13 feet in some places and shifting more than 3 feet in others, the BBC reported.
The change was enough that even Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s ALOS-2 spacecraft measured the shift, reporting that the distance between it and the ground had shortened, per the BBC.
Monday’s quake triggered aftershocks — which have continued into Wednesday — and has so far killed at least 62 people, per the national broadcaster NHK. Rescue teams are still attempting to rescue people trapped under the rubble.
Monday’s shake is being compared to Japan’s 2011 9.0 magnitude earthquake. However, that earthquake, which triggered nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima plant and killed 18,000 people, was far more destructive.
Part of the reason Japan’s death toll is much lower than it was in 2011 — other than the magnitude of this earthquake being significantly lower — is because of the system that has been built around one of the most seismically active countries in the world, the BBC reported. The country’s emergency services are well prepared for earthquake rescues, buildings are built with strict guidelines to withstand shaking, and earthquake alerts can give people up to 20 seconds of notice before the worst tremors begin.
Comparatively, countries much less prepared have seen devastating death tolls.
In Turkey and Syria, which were hit with a 7. 8-magnitude earthquake in February 2023, over 50,000 people died. A 6. 8-magnitude earthquake in Morocco in September 2023 killed more than 2,900 people and affected 2. 8 million people.
A series of quakes in Afghanistan in October 2023, the highest one being 6. 3-magnitude, killed 1,300 people and injured 1,700.