“I think everyone remembers March 2011 and the tsunami, that's why there were so many of us [at the mall]”Maybe thousands on every floor,” said Wakabayashi, 33, who stopped every few minutes on the phone on Tuesday as aftershocks struck.
At least 62 people died and dozens were injured or missing after Monday's quake, according to officials. Emergency crews rushed to rescue survivors from under the rubble of collapsed buildings and burned homes on Tuesday, and sent supplies to the affected areas and survivors.
A strong earthquake destroys buildings and puts Japan on tsunami alert
“So far, a large number of casualties, collapsed buildings, fires and other large-scale damage have been confirmed,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at a press conference Tuesday. “When it comes to saving lives and saving victims, we are in a battle against time.”
The quake triggered the most severe category of tsunami warnings since 2011, when the catastrophic disaster killed at least 18,000 people after waves up to 130 feet high crashed into coastal towns, sweeping away cars and homes, and destroying multi-story buildings.
Although all tsunami warnings were later lifted, the Japan Meteorological Agency warned that more earthquakes with a seismic magnitude of about 7 could hit hard-hit areas over the next week, especially over the next two or three days. Officials are also concerned about landslides hitting Ishikawa Prefecture because rain is forecast there Tuesday night.
Unlike most Asian countries that celebrate the Lunar New Year — which usually takes place in late January or early February — Japan celebrates the January 1 holiday. The first week of January is usually a quiet week, with restaurants, grocery stores, and even some hospitals closed for several days.
But this year began with dire tsunami warnings on television and images of earthquake devastation, shaking a nation still reeling from the traumatic 2011 disaster. The 9.0-magnitude earthquake in 2011 — the strongest earthquake ever recorded in the country's history — was so powerful that NASA believes it may have shifted the Earth's axis by 6.5 inches.
The earthquake that struck the Noto Peninsula on Monday was the largest recorded there since 1885, when the Japan Meteorological Agency began keeping records.
The Japan Airlines plane burned and five Coast Guard crew members were killed after it crashed
Naoyuki Kashimi, 67, and his family were returning home after visiting the traditional temple on New Year's Eve, when the shaking started.
“It was really strong, probably the strongest I've felt in a while and for a long time as well,” said Kashimi, a resident of Kanazawa, the capital of Ishikawa. “I held on to a nearby tree, and a lot of people around me were sitting cross-legged. It was very loud, and I could hear the sounds of glass windows rattling.
Roads were closed after tsunami warnings, so they took longer to return home than usual, Al-Kashimi said. Their home was undamaged, and he plans to head this week to Wajima, a city in Ishikawa that was hit hard by the quake, to deliver blankets and other items to residents.
The quake caused widespread destruction throughout Ishikawa and surrounding prefectures, according to officials and media reports.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 57,360 people were in evacuation centers, and 10,000 families were without water, Yoshimasa Hayashi, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, said at a news conference.
More than 100 buildings in Wajima burned, including the Morning Market, one of Japan's oldest markets with 200 stalls dating back more than 1,300 years.
In Suzu, also in Ishikawa, about 1,000 homes were destroyed. The displaced residents spent the night in shelters. Aerial footage captured an “SOS” sign in the city created from folding chairs.
“Ninety percent of homes are completely or almost completely destroyed; The damage is devastating, Masuhiro Izumiya, mayor of Suzu City, said during a disaster response meeting with mayors from the region. “The entire city is in ruins.”
Izumiya requested more supplies for the prefecture, saying: “There is a shortage of everything: water, food, milk, diapers and feminine hygiene products. The power outages and water shortages will continue for some time.”
Hayashi said during his press conference that about 33,000 homes in the prefecture lost power after the earthquake and remained under power outages on Tuesday. He added that Ishikawa residents have had difficulty getting cell phone service and reaching families they believe are trapped under the buildings.
Divers locate the remains and wreckage of a crashed Osprey ship off the coast of Japan
Japan is one of the most seismically active countries due to the formation of tectonic plates that meet in the country and its proximity to areas of the Pacific Ocean that are prone to earthquakes. It has invested heavily in infrastructure to withstand earthquakes and tsunamis, including concrete seawalls, and Japanese citizens undergo regular training.
Japan's building codes have become increasingly strict since major earthquakes in the 1980s and 1990s that killed thousands when buildings collapsed, and the codes were updated again after the March 2011 disaster.
Kishida ordered about 1,000 members of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to conduct rescue and relief operations, and called for a rapid response, especially for those buried under the rubble.
“We offer our deepest condolences to those who lost their lives. As time passes, the extent of the damage will become clearer,” Kishida said.