In the wake of a series of major earthquakes that hit Japan on Monday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said the nation is facing a “battle against time” to find survivors. The earthquakes, with the strongest registering a magnitude of 7.6 at a shallow depth of 10km, struck the west coast of Japan’s main island and claimed at least 48 lives, injured many, and left homes in ruins due to ensuing fires.

Rescue operations are underway in the worst-hit area, the Noto Peninsula, where one thousand army personnel have been dispatched to aid those affected.

In Wajima city, fires continued to burn as of 7 a.m. local time on Tuesday, resulting in the complete destruction of over 100 homes and other buildings. The Kyodo news agency reported that 15 of the 30 casualties occurred in Wajima city, with the Asachi-dori street area, known for its wooden buildings and popular among visitors, being the worst-affected district. The exact cause and casualty numbers remain unclear.

The earthquakes, which shook buildings in Tokyo, approximately 300km away, struck the Noto Peninsula, extending into the Sea of Japan, concentrating the most significant loss of life and injuries in that region.

In Nanao city, a woman in her fifties was confirmed dead, and more than 30 people were hospitalised. Reports suggest other residents in the area are unconscious, trapped under rubble, or missing, highlighting the urgency of rescue efforts.

The meteorological agency warns of potential aftershocks in the affected areas over the next few days. Despite the lifting of tsunami warnings, residents of coastal areas are advised not to return to their homes. Initial warnings by Japanese public broadcaster NHK TV about possible water torrents reaching five meters prompted evacuations to sports halls, schools, and other public buildings.

Bullet trains and flights to and from the affected region were suspended on Tuesday morning. Major highways remain closed due to earthquake damage, and burst pipes in some areas have led to the cutting of water supplies. Mobile phone networks in the region suffered damage, but efforts are underway to gradually restore service.

Japan, known as the most earthquake-prone nation globally, faced its last major quake and tsunami on 11 March 2011, claiming 18,000 lives. This disaster devastated towns and triggered nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Since then, most of Japan’s nuclear power plants have been decommissioned. Fortunately, nuclear regulators report no radiation level increases at monitoring posts in the affected region, and no abnormalities have been detected at over 20 reactors along the nearby coastline.