Powerful 7.3 magnitude earthquake hits northern Japan, tsunami risk decreases
A powerful 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit the coast of Fukushima in northern Japan on Wednesday evening, triggering a tsunami warning and plunging more than 2 million homes in the Tokyo area into darkness.
The area is part of northern Japan which was devastated 11 years ago by a deadly 9.0 earthquake and tsunami which also triggered meltdowns at nuclear power plants, spewing massive radiation which still renders some parts uninhabitable .
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no longer a tsunami threat although the Japan Meteorological Agency kept its low risk advisory in place. National television NHK said 20-centimeter (8-inch) tsunami waves had already reached the shore in Ishinomaki, about 390 kilometers (242 miles) northeast of Tokyo.
NHK footage showed shattered walls of a department store fallen to the ground and shards of windows strewn across the street near the main station in the city of Fukushima, about 60 kilometers (36 miles) to the west on the side.
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, which operates the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant where cooling systems failed after the 2011 disaster, said workers found no abnormalities at the site, which was being dismantling.
Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority said a fire alarm went off in the turbine building of the Fukushima Daiichi No. 5 reactor, but there was no actual fire. Water pumps in the spent fuel cooling pool at two of Fukushima Daini’s four reactors briefly stopped, but then resumed operation. Fukushima Daini must also be downgraded.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said the quake happened at 11:36 p.m. at a depth of 60 kilometers (36 miles) under the sea.
Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force said it dispatched fighter jets from Hyakuri base in Ibaraki prefecture, just south of Fukushima, to collect information and assess damage.
NHK said fires, damage to buildings and rockfalls were reported in the town of Iitate in Fukushima. There was no word on the casualties.
More than 2.2 million homes were without power in 14 northeastern prefectures, including the Tokyo area, served by TEPCO and another utility, Tohoku Electric Power Co., according to the companies.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said power was expected to be restored shortly after midnight on Wednesday.
The quake rocked large parts of eastern Japan, including Tokyo, where buildings swayed violently.
East Japan Railway Co. said most of its train services had been suspended for security checks. Some local trains then resumed service.
A Tohoku Shinkansen express train partially derailed between Fukushima and Miyagi due to the quake, but no one was injured, Kishida said.
He told reporters that the government was assessing the extent of the damage and promised to do everything possible for rescue and relief operations.
“Please act first to save your life,” Kishida tweeted.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said there had been a number of emergency calls and local authorities were working to assess the damage.
“We are doing our best in rescue operations and putting people’s lives first,” he said.
He urged people in affected areas to be extra cautious for possible major aftershocks for about a week.
Associated Press writer Yuri Kageyama contributed to this report.