(Tokyo) A strong earthquake hit central Japan on Friday, killing at least one and injuring 21, causing landslides and temporarily halting high-speed train traffic.
The 6.5 magnitude earthquake occurred at 2:42 p.m. (1:42 a.m. Eastern Time) in Ishikawa Prefecture, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA). She initially estimated the magnitude at 6.3.
JMA officials warned residents of possible aftershocks and landslides in the coming days but said there was no risk of a tsunami.
“There was a strong, long shaking that lasted about two minutes. I was scared because it was endless,” a local official told state broadcaster NHK.
Japanese government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno told the media that the death toll was one, adding that the collapse of several buildings had been reported.
The victim died after falling from a ladder in Suzu, on the Sea of Japan coast, a crisis management official in that city told AFP. He added that 21 people were injured.
The local fire and disaster management agency said at least three structures had been destroyed and two people trapped inside.
One was pulled from the rubble and taken to hospital, while rescuers were still looking for the second person.
NHK footage showed destroyed or damaged wooden houses, with shattered windows and battered roofs. You could also see a sagging mountain section.
This Friday is a public holiday in Japan, which celebrates as every beginning of May the week of holidays “Golden Week”. The population usually takes the opportunity to travel or meet up with family.
The circulation of high-speed trains (shinkansen) was temporarily interrupted according to the JR West railway company between Nagano and Kanazawa, a very touristic city, but resumed during the afternoon.
The earthquake reached level 6 in places on the Japanese Shindo scale, which has 7.
Several landslides have been reported and residents have taken refuge in evacuation centers, disaster prevention minister Koichi Tani said.
According to the government spokesperson, no anomalies had been detected at the Shiga and Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plants, located in the affected area.
The American institute of geological studies USGS for its part estimated the magnitude of the earthquake at 6.2 and located it slightly off the coast, while the Japanese agency placed the epicenter on dry land.
Earthquakes are common in Japan, which sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an area of high seismic activity that stretches across Southeast Asia and the Pacific Basin.
The archipelago has strict construction standards so that its buildings are able to withstand strong tremors. Emergency exercises to prepare for a major earthquake are regularly organized.
The city of Suzu is on the Noto Peninsula, hit by a 6.9 magnitude earthquake in 2007 that injured hundreds and damaged more than 200 buildings.
Japan remains haunted by the memory of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake of March 11, 2011, off the northeast coast of Japan.
The terrible tremor had resulted in a tsunami which was the main cause of the heavy human toll of nearly 18,500 dead or missing.
The ensuing nuclear accident at the flood-ridden Fukushima Daiichi plant, where the cores of three of six reactors melted, forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate and rendered entire communities uninhabitable for several years.