A magnitude 7.3 earthquake has struck off Japan’s east coast, rattling a region hit by a powerful 2011 quake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown just weeks before the disaster’s 10th anniversary.
The earthquake on Saturday produced powerful shaking along the coast and was felt strongly in the capital, Tokyo, but triggered no tsunami alert.
Its epicentre was off the coast of Fukushima prefecture at a depth of 60km (36 miles), the Japan Meteorological Agency said. It shook buildings for some time after it hit, shortly after 11pm (14:00 GMT).
There were no immediate reports of significant damage, though local news broadcast images of a landslide on a highway. Kyodo news agency reported at least 30 people injured, but gave no further details.
Approximately 950,000 homes lost power throughout the affected region, with the blackouts appearing to be concentrated in northeast Japan, including Fukushima and neighbouring prefectures.
No abnormalities were reported at the Fukushima nuclear plant, which melted down in the wake of the 2011 disaster, or at the Kahiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, according to owner Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings.
Aftershocks continued to rattle the region in the hours afterwards and officials cautioned local residents to be vigilant. A handful of people were reported to have sought shelter at evacuation centres.
“We are working quickly to collect information but we still have no details to announce. There were some unconfirmed reports about landslides but we are still checking,” Mikihiro Meguro, an official from the Fukushima prefectural government, told the AFP news agency.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was called to his office, and broadcaster NHK said the government would set up a special liaison office to coordinate with affected regions.
‘All messed up’
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato addressed reporters after midnight and said evaluations were under way.
“As far as damage, casualties and structural damage are being assessed,” he said, adding that sections of the bullet train service had been suspended due to power outages.
“Surveys are being done at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant,” Kato added. “We have received reports that Onagawa nuclear plant and Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant are not showing any abnormality.”
Images posted online showed broken glass at a shop and items spilled off the shelves at a supermarket.
— 柳美里 (@yu_miri_0622) February 13, 2021
Renowned author Yu Miri, who lives in Fukushima’s Minamisoma city, tweeted a photo of her home, showing books, potted plants and other belongings strewn across the floor.
“My house in Odaka, Minamisoma city is all messed up,” she wrote.
“I hear the ground rumbling. And another quake,” she tweeted about an aftershock.
Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the most seismically active areas on Earth. Japan accounts for about 20 percent of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.
Triggered by a magnitude 9.1 earthquake, a tsunami crashed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in March 2011, overwhelming reactor cooling systems and causing multiple meltdowns in the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
Nearly 20,000 people were killed or went missing and 160,000 lost their homes and livelihoods in the massive earthquake and tsunami, which sent radiation over a large area that forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate.