Japan is one of the countries with the most frequent earthquakes in the world.
The extent of the destruction was revealed at daybreak on Tuesday: everywhere, old houses and collapsed buildings, cracked roads, boats capsized or stranded fishing boats, and persistent fires amid smoldering ruins.
The earthquake and its multiple aftershocks caused numerous victims and significant material damage, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Tuesday. We must race against time to save lives, he added.
A large fire notably ravaged part of the city center town of Wajima, a small historic port in the north of the Noto Peninsula known for its lacquerware crafts. A six-story commercial building also collapsed due to the earthquake.
Hold fast! Hold on!, shouted firefighters as they made their way through the rubble using an electric saw and by crawling, according to images from Japanese television filmed in Wajima.
Some 32,000 homes remained without electricity on Tuesday afternoon and many towns in the Ishikawa department no longer have access to drinking water, as winter brings cold and humidity in this rural region.
More than 60,000 residents had received evacuation instructions on Monday, according to the national health agency. management of fires and natural disasters.
A thousand soldiers from the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JAF), as well as more than 2,000 firefighters and some 630 police officers have arrived as reinforcements in the disaster areas, Mr. Kishida said on Tuesday.
The Prime Minister also announced on Monday the sending of basic necessities such as drinking water, food, blankets, gasoline or even fuel oil, by plane or by boat.
Faced with the disaster, the traditional public New Year greetings by Japan's Emperor Naruhito and his family, which were to be held on Tuesday in Tokyo, were canceled.
Several damaged highways were closed to traffic and high-speed train (shinkansen) traffic between Tokyo and Ishikawa, interrupted since Monday, resumed Tuesday afternoon.
But some 2,400 passengers were stuck overnight on shinkansen or other stopped trains, some for nearly 24 hours, according to NHK. Around 500 people were also stranded at Noto airport, where the runway and access roads were damaged.
Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world.
The archipelago therefore has extremely strict construction standards, so that modern buildings are generally resistant to powerful earthquakes, but older houses much less so.
Japan is haunted by the memory of the terrible 9.0 magnitude earthquake followed by a giant tsunami in March 2011 on the country's northeastern coast, a disaster that left some 20,000 dead and missing.
This disaster also led to the Fukushima nuclear accident, the worst since Chernobyl in 1986.
No anomaly has been detected in the country's nuclear power plants, the Japanese nuclear safety authority (NRA) assured on Monday.
Several countries friendly to Japan including the United States, Canada, France and Italy have offered Tokyo to help if necessary. China also expressed its condolences on Tuesday.