UPDATE: Strong earthquake strikes off northeastern Japan

December 07, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN AND WIRE REPORTS

A magnitude-7.3 earthquake struck off the coast of northeastern Japan in the same region that was hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami last year. Tokyo high-rises swayed for minutes, one city reported a small tsunami and at least two people were reported injured.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said the earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.3 and struck in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Miyagi prefecture at 5:18 p.m. on Dec. 7. The epicenter was 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) beneath the seabed and 240 kilometers (150 miles) offshore.

The tsunami warning was issued for Miyagi Prefecture, while tsunami advisories were issued for the prefectures of Aomori, Iwate, Fukushima and Ibaraki. The warning and advisories were canceled at 7:20 p.m.

According to the Nuclear Regulation Authority, no reports had been submitted about problems at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the Onagawa nuclear power plant, operated by Tohoku Electric Power Co., or the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant, operated by Japan Atomic Power Co.

TEPCO officials held a news conference and said there were no irregularities at the Fukushima No. 1 or No. 2 nuclear plants. Monitoring posts also did not detect any unusually high radiation readings.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority also said there were no problems at the nuclear fuel reprocessing facility at Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, operated by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.

After the quake, which caused buildings in Tokyo to sway for at least a minute, authorities issued a warning that a tsunami potentially as high as 2 meters could hit. Ishinomaki, a city in Miyagi, reported that a tsunami of 1 meter hit at 6:02 p.m.

Traffic was being stopped in some places to check on roads.

Shortly before the earthquake struck, NHK television broke off regular programming to warn that a strong quake was due to hit. Afterward, the announcer repeatedly urged all near the coast to flee to higher ground.

The quake and tsunami warning forced Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to cancel campaigning in Tokyo ahead of a Dec. 16 election. Noda was on his way back to his office, but there was no immediate plan to hold a special Cabinet meeting.

Public spending on quake-proofing buildings is a big election issue.

Japanese were posting photos of their TV screens with tsunami warnings on Facebook, asking each other whether they were safe and confirming their whereabouts.

“It shook for a long time here in Tokyo, are you guys all right?” posted Eriko Hamada, inquiring about the safety of her friends.

Phone lines were overloaded, and it was difficult to contact residents in Miyagi.

“Owing to the recent earthquake, phone lines are very busy, please try again later,” the telephone operator said.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN AND WIRE REPORTS
  • 1
submit to reddit
People watch news related to the earthquake and tsunami warning on a TV in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, at 5:58 p.m. on Dec. 7. (Kengo Hiyoshi)

People watch news related to the earthquake and tsunami warning on a TV in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, at 5:58 p.m. on Dec. 7. (Kengo Hiyoshi)

Toggle
  • People watch news related to the earthquake and tsunami warning on a TV in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, at 5:58 p.m. on Dec. 7. (Kengo Hiyoshi)
  • At Tokyo Station, JR East officials inform customers as the operation of Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train is temporarily suspended on Dec. 7. (Soichiro Yamamoto)

More AJW