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Strong earthquake shakes Fukushima: Tsunami warning

Strong earthquake shakes Fukushima: Tsunami warning

zTwo strong earthquakes of magnitude 6.4 and 7.3 jolted Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures in northeastern Japan on Wednesday. About 30 minutes before midnight local time, the ground shook in the area as nearly 20,000 people died after an earthquake and tsunami eleven years ago. Authorities also issued a tsunami warning on Wednesday.

Patrick Welter

Japan business and politics reporter based in Tokyo.

More than an hour and a half after the earthquake, small tsunami waves reached the coast in some places. At first, the authorities did not provide all the clarity because the waves could intensify.

The quake, which lasted for an unusually long time, was felt as far south as Tokyo and in the southeast. The epicenter of the 7.3-magnitude earthquake was about 60 kilometers in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture, according to the Japan Seismological Observatory. The US Seismic Survey reported another earthquake in the area a few minutes ago, with a magnitude of 6.4.

First check: No damage to nuclear power plants

After an initial check, power supplier Tepco announced that there were no irregular observations at the Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini nuclear power plants. The operator of the nuclear power plant in Onagawa reported similarly in the north. All three power plants are out of service. Eleven years ago, a triple meltdown occurred in Fukushima Daiichi.

More than two million people in the area and the greater Tokyo area were without power. The Shinkansen Express has stopped. An express train derailed in Fukushima Prefecture. There were scattered reports during the night of house fires in the area. The authorities warned residents not to go to the coast. Severe aftershocks may strike the region in the coming days.

Mixed: A snapshot of a Japanese supermarket

Mixed: A snapshot of a Japanese supermarket

Photo: AP

The last time residents of the area experienced similarly strong earthquakes was on Wednesday more than a year ago. At that time, experts did not rule out that these were aftershocks of a severe earthquake eleven years ago. On March 11, 2011, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami that struck the coastal region of northeastern Japan with waves over 15 meters high. About 19,000 people lost their lives at that time or are still missing today.

Emergency power generators malfunctioned at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, resulting in a triple meltdown. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from the area and some cannot return to their hometowns.

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