Deadly earthquake in Japan cuts millions from electricity, prompting brief tsunami warning
A powerful 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Fukushima in northern Japan on Wednesday night, killing at least one person, triggering a tsunami warning and plunging more than 2 million homes in the Tokyo area into darkness.
The region is part of northern Japan which was devastated by a11 years ago that also triggered nuclear meltdowns spewing out massive radiation that still makes some parts uninhabitable.
At least one person died in the quake, local news agency Kyodo reported, and Reuters reported at least 69 people were injured.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no longer a tsunami threat, although the Japan Meteorological Agency maintained its low-risk recommendation. National broadcaster NHK said 20 centimeters (8 inches) of tsunami waves had already hit the shore in Ishinomaki, about 390 kilometers (242 miles) northeast of Tokyo.
NHK footage showed the broken walls of a department store building falling and shards of windows scattered on the street near the main train station in the city of Fukushima, some 60 kilometers (36 miles) west of the coast.
Videos posted online showed people’s homes shaking in the capital. YouTube video artist John Daub posted a clip of him rattling at home in the office.
“Bad memories for us from March 11, 2011, but we are fine in Tokyo,” Daub said on his Twitter account.
An emergency room official from the Ishinomaki local government told AFP he was awakened by “extremely violent shaking.”
“I heard the ground rumble. Instead of being scared, I immediately remembered the Great East Japan Earthquake,” he said, referring to the 2011 disaster.
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, which operates the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant where cooling systems failed after the 2011 disaster, said workers have not found any abnormalities at the site, which has just been shut down.
Japan’s nuclear regulator said a fire alarm was sounded in the turbine building of reactor No. 5 at Fukushima Daiichi, but there was no actual fire. Water pumps for the spent fuel cooling pool at two of the four reactors at Fukushima Daini were briefly stopped but later restarted. Fukushima Daini is also to be shut down.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said the quake struck at 11:36 p.m. at a depth of 60 kilometers (36 miles) below the sea.
Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force said it dispatched fighter jets from Hyakuri base in Ibaraki Prefecture south of Fukushima to gather intelligence and assess damage.
NHK said there were reports of fires, damage to buildings and falling rocks in the city of Iitate in Fukushima. Nothing was known about victims.
More than 2.2 million homes in 14 northeastern prefectures, including the Tokyo region, were without power, according to companies from TEPCO and another utility, Tohoku Electric Power Co.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said power would be restored just after midnight on Wednesday.
The quake shook large parts of eastern Japan, including Tokyo, where buildings swayed violently.
East Japan Railway Co. said most of its train services have been suspended due to security checks. Some local trains later resumed operations.
A Tohoku Shinkansen express train between Fukushima and Miyagi partially derailed 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 pledged to do its utmost for rescue and relief efforts.
“Please take action first to save your life,” Kishida tweeted.
Chief Cabinet Officer Hirokazu Matsuno said there had been a number of 911 calls and local authorities were scrambling to assess the damage.
“We do our best in rescue operations and put people’s lives first,” he said.
He urged residents of the affected areas to pay particular attention to possible major aftershocks for about a week.