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Japan issues tsunami warnings after powerful earthquake

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Tsunami warnings were declared for at least eight regions of Japan on Monday after a massive earthquake of an estimated 7.6-magnitude erupted off the country’s western coast at about 4:10 p.m., prompting governmental authorities to urge those in these vulnerable areas to evacuate or run to higher ground.

A major tsunami warning — the most severe category — was issued Monday afternoon for the Noto area of Ishikawa prefecture, located near the earthquake’s epicenter, on the western coast of central Japan. Several populous cities are also in areas placed under warnings. Tsunami waves with a height of about 1.2 meters, or 4 feet, were detected around the Noto Peninsula at about 4:21 p.m., according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, with more waves detected in the area at about 4:37 p.m.

People in areas placed under tsunami warnings are advised to “evacuate immediately from coastal regions and riverside areas” to higher ground or designated evacuation buildings, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. The agency warns that “waves are expected to hit repeatedly.”

Tsunami warnings were also issued for the prefectures of Yamagata, Niigata, Toyama and Fukui, as well as for Sadogashima Island, the Kaga area of Shikawa prefecture and the northern part of Hyogo prefecture. At least 13 other regions were placed under a tsunami advisory as of 5:30 p.m. Monday.

The Office of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said it had instructed authorities to prioritize human life and spare no effort in emergency disaster response.

The tsunami warnings have stoked fears across Japan, where at least 18,000 people were killed after a catastrophic March 2011 earthquake off the northeastern coast of Honshu sent towering waves as high as 130 feet crashing into coastal towns, sweeping away cars and homes, as well as destroying multistory buildings. The 9.0-magnitude earthquake was the third-largest magnitude ever recorded in the world since 1900, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information in the United States.

The 2011 earthquake also triggered one of the worst nuclear disasters in history, when a surge of seawater flooded electricity generators that powered the cooling system of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, compromising three reactors and eventually causing explosions that spread radioactive material.

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