Japan is on alert for a five-metre (16ft) tsunami after a 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck the country on Monday morning, prompting evacuation warnings for residents along hundreds of kilometres of coast.
A tsunami warning was issued for Ishikawa in central Japan, with other lower-level warnings in place for the rest of the Western coast of the country’s main island of Honshu.
Waves, some more than a metre high, have already struck parts of the northern coast of central Japan, according to NHK TV.
“Run!” a bright-yellow warning flashed on the Japanese public broadcaster NHK TV, advising residents in some coastal areas to immediately evacuate their homes.
Japan’s chief cabinet secretary said a tsunami of about 5m (16ft) was expected for the Noto region of Ishikawa prefecture, as he urged people to move to high ground.
Buildings have collapsed and an estimated 40,000 homes have lost power in Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures, with flights and rail services in the region disrupted.
Footage broadcast by NHK TV showed a building collapsing in a plume of dust in the city of Suzu and residents in Kanazawa city cowering under tables amid tremors. The quake also shook buildings in Tokyo, on the opposite coast.
Fumio Kishida, the Japanese Prime Minister, said: “Residents need to stay on alert for further possible quakes and I urge people in areas where tsunamis are expected to evacuate as soon as possible.”
Residents along the coast of the Sea of Japan were told to flee to high land or the top of a nearby building as quickly as possible.
It marks the first major warnings since the earthquake and tsunami that struck north-eastern Japan in March 2011, which killed an estimated 20,000 people and caused the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.
Russia, South Korea and North Korea have also issued tsunami warnings following the quakes.
A series of quakes ranging in magnitude from 3.6 to 7.6 struck off the coast of Ishikawa and nearby prefectures shortly after 4pm local time, (7am GMT), the Japan Meteorological Agency reported.
Waves as high as 1.2m (4ft) hit Wajima port at 4.21pm local time (7.21am GMT), according to the national broadcaster NHK.
The Japan Meteorological Agency issued tsunami warnings for the coastal prefectures of Ishikawa, Niigata and Toyama.
Authorities have also issued tsunami warnings for neighbouring Niigata and Toyama prefectures, warning that waves there could reach a height of three metres.
No irregularities have been reported from nuclear power plants along the Sea of Japan, the country’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has said.
Russia issued tsunami warnings in its far eastern cities of Vladivostok and Nakhodka.
The state news agency Tass said that areas of Sakhalin island’s western coast and the mainland Primorsk and Khabarovsk regions, which are situated close to Japan, are on alert.
North Korea issued tsunami warnings for its east coast, saying waves of up to seven feet could reach its shore, Yonhap news reported citing the North’s state radio.
A 45cm (1.5 ft) wave hit South Korea’s east coast at 9.21am GMT, South Korea’s meteorological agency said.
The tsunami can grow after the initial waves and may continue for more than 24 hours, the agency said.
South Korea’s Gangwon province warned residents to evacuate to higher ground, according to the ministry of interior and safety.