Earthquake Hits Japan’s Western Coast; Country Remains Open

A 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Japan’s western coast on New Year's Day has resulted in a least 48 deaths. The epicenter was on the Noto Peninsula in the central Ishikawa prefecture; according to Reuters, there is major damage to roads and houses (with up to 90 percent of houses in Suzu, near the epicenter, destroyed).

Following the initial earthquake, tsunami warnings were put into place. Although waves didn’t top four feet, the increased swell was enough to sweep cars and houses into the water. The warnings were in place for parts of Japan’s western coast and even as far as eastern Russia, across the Sea of Japan. Additionally, around 200 tremors have been detected since Monday, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, which means that strong aftershocks could hit in the coming days.

Following the incident, a Coast Guard aircraft en route to deliver aid to the region collided with a landing Japan Airlines craft at Tokyo Haneda Airport on Tuesday, killing five Coast Guard crew. All 379 onboard the Japan Airlines flight escaped despite the Airbus A350-900  bursting into flames. Four passengers were taken to a hospital. All flights from the airport were temporarily paused but have since resumed. 

“The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) stands in solidarity with the people of Japan. The news of the devastating earthquake in the Noto Peninsula has deeply moved us all,” the WTTC said in a statement.

“We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families who have lost loved ones, and the communities affected by this disaster.

“We commend the heroic efforts of the rescuers, who are tirelessly working to find survivors, and applaud the swift response of the government of Japan, as they respond to this unfolding event.”

This is the deadliest earthquake in Japan since 2016. Located on the “Ring of Fire,” a tectonic belt of volcanoes and fault lines across the Pacific, Japan is reportedly home to 20 percent of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater. That said, this was far less destructive than the 2011 9.0 magnitude earthquake that resulted in a tsunami with 100-plus-foot waves and the death of nearly 20,000 people.

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