TOKYO (AP) — Japan has issued a tsunami warning and asked people to evacuate coastal areas after a series of earthquakes struck the west coast on Monday.
The Japan Meteorological Agency reported earthquakes off the coast of Ishikawa and surrounding prefectures shortly after 4 p.m., one of which had a preliminary magnitude of 7.6.
It issued a major tsunami warning for Ishikawa and a lower-level tsunami warning or advisory for the rest of the west coast of Japan's main island of Honshu.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK TV warned that torrents of water could reach 5 meters (16.5 ft) and urged people to flee to higher ground or to the top of a nearby building as quickly as possible.
NHK said tsunami waves could keep returning and warnings would continue to be broadcast more than an hour after the initial warning. Several earthquakes also shook the region.
Government spokesman Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters that nuclear plants in the region had not reported any irregularities. But he said it is important for people in coastal areas to stay away from the coming tsunami.
“Every minute counts. Please move to a safe area immediately,” he said.
A tsunami up to 3 meters (about 10 feet) high was expected to hit Niigata and other prefectures on Japan's west coast. Small tsunami waves have already been confirmed to have reached the coastline, according to NHK.
Warnings for waves up to one meter (3 feet) high were also issued for North Korea and parts of Russia. Russian authorities issued a tsunami warning for Sakhalin Island, warning that areas of the island's west coast could be affected by the waves.
In nearby South Korea, the weather agency urged residents of some eastern coastal cities to keep an eye on possible changes in sea level. Subsequent tsunami waves can be even larger than the initial waves.
The Japanese government has set up a special emergency center to collect information on earthquakes and tsunamis and deliver it rapidly to residents to ensure safety, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.
He reiterated the warning to immediately evacuate the affected areas.
NHK TV footage showed a room shaken by the quake, clothes hanging and swaying and a computer on a table rattling. Reports of major damage were not immediately available. NHK reported that some power poles were downed and roads were damaged.
Hyung-Jin Kim in Seoul and Katie Davis in London contributed.
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