A powerful magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck late Saturday off the coast of Tohoku, leaving at least 50 people injured and knocking multiple power plants offline.
The quake, which measured a strong 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale — the second-highest level — jolted Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures in the Tohoku region. No tsunami warning was issued.
The injuries were reported in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, but it was not immediately clear if anyone was seriously hurt.
Nationwide, at least 950,000 homes were without power as of midnight, top government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said at a news conference. Kato later said that multiple power plants in the nation were offline.
A government source said the power outage situation was expected to improve through the early hours of Sunday but that more time would be needed in the Tohoku region.
The quake, which was also felt in Tokyo, where it registered a 4 on the Japanese scale, struck at around 11:07 p.m., according to the Meteorological Agency. The epicenter was off the coast of Fukushima, about 220 kilometers (135 miles) north of Tokyo. Its focus was estimated to be at a depth of about 55 kilometers.
At a news conference early Sunday morning, a Meteorological Agency official said aftershocks of up to a strong 6 on the Japanese scale could occur for at least a week. The official said Saturday’s quake was believed to be an aftershock of the Great East Japan Earthquake that struck the same region on March 11, 2011.
“Because (the 2011 quake) was an enormous one with a magnitude of 9.0, it’s not surprising to have an aftershock of this scale 10 years later,” said Kenji Satake, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s Earthquake Research Institute.
The quake registered a strong 6 in the southern part of Miyagi, and in the Nakadori central and Hamadori coastal regions of Fukushima, the agency said.
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— ヤスヤ (@YSY_KD) February 13, 2021
Power outages were reported in parts of Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, and Tochigi prefectures, according to media reports. Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings reported blackouts across several prefectures as of early Sunday morning.
No abnormalities have been found at the Fukushima Nos. 1 and 2 nuclear power plants, according to Tokyo Electric Power. The same was true for Japan Atomic Power Co.’s inactive Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in the village of Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture and Tohoku Electric Power Co.’s Onagawa nuclear plant in Miyagi Prefecture, according to their operators.
Following the quake, JR East temporarily halted operations of its Tohoku, Joetsu and Hokuriku shinkansen lines. Power outages occurred on some sections. A landslide had covered a section of the Joban Expressway in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, officials said, but no vehicles were found to be trapped.
Horizontal shaking lasted for a few minutes inside a traditional inn in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, with plates for food scattered in its dining room.
“The initial jolt felt more powerful than the one I experienced in the Great East Japan Earthquake,” said Tomoko Kobayashi, 68, who works at the inn. “I wondered if it would end.”
After the 7.1 quake, many smaller earthquakes with magnitudes between 3 and 5 occurred off Fukushima.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga immediately directed government agencies to assess damage, rescue any potential victims, work with municipalities and provide necessary information about any evacuation plans and damage as soon as possible. The government was setting up a task force to examine the quake.
Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi directed the Self-Defense Forces to gather information on the scope of the damage and be prepared to respond immediately.
The quake, which comes less than a month before the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, registered a 4 on the Japanese scale as far north as Aomori Prefecture and as far west as Shizuoka Prefecture. It was the strongest quake in the region since April 7 that year, the meteorology agency said.
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