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Multiple deaths in Japan after New Year's Day earthquake

A view of a road collapsed by a strong earthquake in Shika, central Japan. The earthquake hit a wide area on the Sea of Japan coast Monday, according to the National Police Agency. The earthquake recorded a magnitude 7.5 on the Japanese seismic scale in the Noto Peninsula and triggered a major tsunami warning in Ishikawa Prefecture. Photo by Jiji Press Japan/EPA-EFE/
1 of 4 | A view of a road collapsed by a strong earthquake in Shika, central Japan. The earthquake hit a wide area on the Sea of Japan coast Monday, according to the National Police Agency. The earthquake recorded a magnitude 7.5 on the Japanese seismic scale in the Noto Peninsula and triggered a major tsunami warning in Ishikawa Prefecture. Photo by Jiji Press Japan/EPA-EFE/

Jan. 1 (UPI) -- A powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake, which rocked western Japan on New Year's Day, killed at least six people and injured dozens of others as rescuers faced a "battle against time" to locate quake survivors.

The earthquake struck Monday about 26 miles northeast of Anamizu in Ishikawa prefecture, along the Noto Peninsula, damaging roads and buildings and cutting off power to 45,000 homes. Tsunami warnings issued as far away as eastern Russia were downgraded to advisories, before being canceled Tuesday morning.

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More than 140 aftershocks have been recorded since the quake hit, as Japan's Meteorological Agency warned strong tremors could continue for days. More than 97,000 people were evacuated from their homes Monday night as a precaution.

Authorities initially warned that tsunami waves could be as high as 10 feet along the Sea of Japan coast but the Meteorological Agency later downgraded, then canceled all of the tsunami warnings.

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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters emergency personnel are continuing to work as quickly as possible to rescue those trapped in collapsed buildings, while they assess the damage from the earthquake.

"The search and rescue of those impacted by the quake is a battle against time," Kishida said.

"In response to the M7 earthquake at Noto region in Ishikawa prefecture, we have immediately set up the Prime Minister's Office of Response, Disaster Counter Measure HQ," Kishida wrote Monday on X.

"Putting human lives as a priority, we are making every effort to assess damages -- putting forth all efforts in disaster response. For those in affected areas, please pay close attention to the latest information and place personal safety as your priority."

Six people were reported dead in Ishikawa, with more than 30 reported injuries in four other prefectures, including Toyama and Niigata, according to the national police agency. Local media reported more than a dozen deaths had been confirmed so far.

One elderly man was confirmed dead, local police said, after he was rescued from a house that collapsed in the quake, according to Japan's public broadcaster NHK.

The quake shook buildings in central Tokyo, while local police on the peninsula reported two people were found showing no vital signs. The central government also confirmed six separate incidences of residents trapped alive under collapsed houses in the area.

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The New Year's Day quake marked the first time Japan has issued a major tsunami warning since 2011, when a 9.0-magnitude quake struck Tohoku, causing catastrophic damage from deadly tsunami waves.

Monday's earliest waves measured about four feet along the Noto Peninsula and around Ishikawa and Niigata. Some were identified as far north of the Hokkaido Prefecture.

Japan Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako canceled their New Year's celebration for Tuesday, as Kishida postponed his New Year visit to Isle Shrine, which had been scheduled for Thursday.

On Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden issued a statement of support.

"Jill and I are praying for the people of Japan who have been impacted by the terrible earthquake," he said. "My administration is in touch with Japanese officials, and the United States stands ready to provide any necessary assistance for the Japanese people.

"As close Allies, the United States and Japan share a deep bond of friendship that unites our people. Our thoughts are with the Japanese people during this difficult time," the president said.

Officials suspended bullet train service while Japan Airlines and Nippon Airways canceled all fights in the western region. Western Japan hospitals reported power outages but there were no confirmed numbers of possible injuries from the earthquake so far.

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Strong aftershocks, ranging from 4.0 to 5.0 magnitude came in a rapid-fire succession of 21 incidents in central Japan, according to the JMA. The country's nuclear authority said there was "no risk of radioactivity leaking from nuclear power plants" in the affected areas.

Japan sits in the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where many tectonic plates meet, causing a constant threat of earthquakes that has led it to develop one of the world's most sophisticated tsunami warning systems.

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