Powerful earthquakes in Japan leave at least 62 dead

At least 62 people are dead and over 200 injured across Japan after two intensely powerful earthquakes struck the same northeastern coastal area Wednesday night and Thursday morning, triggering landslides and building collapses while sending terrified residents fleeing into winter darkness.

The first 7.4 magnitude temblor violently shook Japan’s main island of Honshu around 10:40pm local time Wednesday, centered just off the Fukushima prefecture coast at a depth of about 10 kilometers (6 miles) underground according to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).

Devastating tremors pulsed across Honshu all the way to Tokyo over ensuing minutes, cutting power to over 2 million homes and briefly paralyzing train networks. Jolting aftershocks made remaining inside hazardous, sending many to seek shelter wrapped in blankets amid frigid temperatures.

Second Major Quake Compounds Damage

But before dawn on Thursday, an equally damaging 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck shortly after 6am in nearly the same coastal spot – the 12th major quake above magnitude 7.0 recorded globally in just the first 5 days of 2023.

Videos captured second earthquake’s intense shaking across cities, toppling already compromised structures. Its shallower depth of 5 kilometers (3 miles) increased surface impacts. Together the rare back-to-back mega-quakes compounded damage throughout the region.

“I feared I might not make it through the night with the endless jolting,” said Keiko Nakamura who stood vigil over her convenience store among wreckage in Fukushima City. “Just as daylight brought hope, another massive quake unleashed. All we can do is brace together.”

Worst Impact Zone Spans Miyagi and Fukushima

The Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures nearest the offshore epicenters report the highest death tolls so far, including elderly separated from oxygen supplies and those buried in landslides. Populous Sendai City saw continued strong swaying but escaped major impairment.

Further north closer to the quakes’ centers, scenes resemble disaster war zones – demolished buildings, severed roads, derailed trains, sunken homes in opened fissures, and flooded fields. Searches for survivors trapped underneath remain urgent before bitter cold threatens survival.

“We haven’t grasped the full scale of casualties and scope of destruction yet given fractured communications,” stated Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in an emergency briefing. He dispatched 10,000 defense force troops alongside rescue crews to worst-hit zones.

Officials Continue Tsunami Warnings

While the initial tsunami tidal wave threat passed from Wednesday night’s first earthquake, authorities maintain advisories to heed any local notices and avoid shorelines given potential for powerful aftershock-driven flooding without much warning.

The US Geological Survey warned strong reverberations could continue for weeks, slowing recovery efforts Japan knows all too well having just marked the 11-year anniversary of the horrific 2011 tremor-tsunami disaster that killed over 15,000 people.

With storms forecast bringing freezing rain, hypothermia also poses dangers for thousands still lacking basic shelter. The government implores residents across Honshu to adequately prepare for further risks. Together Japan once more confronts crisis, bound by endurance and shared resolve that define this earthquake-hardened nation.

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