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A powerful earthquake has hit Japan causing at least 62 deaths and thousands of people stuck beneath the rubble.

The country was on high alert as the earthquake triggered tsunami warnings on Monday afternoon, putting areas as far away as eastern Russia on the same high alert level. The warnings were later declared safe.

Buildings collapsed and fires sparked as the after-effect of the 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit the country.

The Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that at least 62 people have been killed by the earthquake and 300 injured, 20 of them seriously.

The quake rattled the Ishikawa prefecture on the main island of Honshu and tore roads apart.

Buildings in several towns were flattened including Wajima and Suzu when the prefecture’s Noto peninsula was most severely hit.

The Guardian reports more than 31,800 people were in shelters, the government said. Japanese media reports said tens of thousands of homes had been destroyed.

Rescue operations have been challenging with heavy rains falling in the affected area. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, “rescue efforts are being made by local authorities, police, firefighters and other operational units, while the number of personnel and rescue dogs is enhanced”.

Image credit: Al Jazeera

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