Tsunami Alert Canceled After Earthquake Near Fukushima: Latest News

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The 7.4 magnitude earthquake lasted more than two minutes.CreditCredit…Hiro Komae/Associated Press

TOKYO — A powerful earthquake hit off the coast of Japan late on Wednesday night, and for several hours residents in the Fukushima region that was battered by a devastating tsunami just over 11 years ago waited to see if another one was coming.

The magnitude 7.3 earthquake hit at 11:36 p.m. and the shaking lasted more than two minutes. It was felt as far as Tokyo. The Japan Meteorological Agency issued tsunami advisories for Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures and residents were warned that waves of up to 1 meter could hit the coasts.

They were canceled early Thursday.

There were reports of power outages in more than two million homes in the Kanto region and numerous train lines had suspended operations.

Nuclear power plants were under inspection early Thursday. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said officials were still assessing the extent of the damage.

Close to 49,000 people were advised to evacuate the Miyagi area.

The intensity of the earthquake equaled that of the Kobe earthquake of 1995, which killed more than 6,000 people. The difference is that the epicenter of Wednesday’s earthquake was about 60 kilometers below the sea.

After the 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami in 2011, three reactors at the Daiichi plant melted down after tsunami waves breached the power station’s protective sea walls and inundated the facility.

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Credit…James Whitlow Delano for The New York Times

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority inspected several nuclear power plants after a magnitude 7.3 earthquake hit late Wednesday night off the coast of Fukushima, the site of a nuclear meltdown in 2011.

As of 1 a.m. Thursday, the authority said that it had not detected any abnormalities at plants in Fukushima; in Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture; or in Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture.

Tokyo Electric Power Company said that a fire alarm was still sounding in one of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, where the 2011 meltdown occurred. The plant has been shut down and undergoing an enormous cleanup since the disaster 11 years ago.

Water pumps for spent fuel cooling pools at a separate power plant in Fukushima were down early Thursday, but Tokyo Electric said there was still water in the pools for now, and that one pump had returned to operation before 2 a.m., according to NHK, the public broadcaster.

The quake left millions of Japanese without power, but Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that Tokyo Electric was expected to be able to quickly restore service.

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Credit…James Whitlow Delano for The New York Times

The devastating tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant 11 years ago left Japan with a formidable challenge: How does a quake- and tsunami-prone island nation dotted with nuclear reactors protect against another calamity?

The magnitude 7.3 quake that struck off the coast of Fukushima late Wednesday night, triggering a tsunami warning, brought that challenge into sharp relief.

There were no immediate reports of major problems at the region’s nuclear power plants. But since Fukushima, concerns about the plants’ tsunami preparedness have remained.

To quell lingering fears, Japanese nuclear regulators in recent years have ordered a flurry of new safety measures at the nation’s reactors, including new sea walls, flood gates and protection for the vital backup generators that power the pumps that cool the hot reactor cores.

But the challenge can be difficult.

The Hamaoka nuclear power plant, for example, is perched on the Pacific Coast west of Tokyo, and workers built a 72-foot sea wall to protect its three reactors, which are among the tallest in the country. Then came the bad news: Scientists working on new projections of potential tsunamis in the region warned last year that waves could reach almost 74 feet.

That two-foot shortfall, along with continued local opposition, has prevented the plant from passing safety inspections. It remains shuttered.

Across the country, only five of 33 operable reactors are currently running. The plants are trying to adopt the new safeguards, but running into regulatory roadblocks and local opposition.

Despite the energy crunch that has gripped Japan, opposition to a swift reopening of nuclear power plants remains strong.

“After the Fukushima Daiichi accident, we repeatedly heard the word ‘unprecedented,’” Keitaro Fukuchi, a writer for the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun wrote in a recent editorial. “Are current measures really enough? We need to stay vigilant.”

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Credit…David Guttenfelder/Associated Press

TOKYO — Just five days after the 11th anniversary of what is known as the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear disaster that followed, residents of a nearby city that was evacuated after the 2011 meltdown found themselves running once again to evacuation centers.

After a powerful earthquake off the Japanese coast led to tsunami warnings, the city government in Minamisoma, which has a population of close to 58,000 people, opened three school gymnasiums and a concert hall for residents to shelter in.

“Please put out any fires” city officials asked residents in a Twitter post. “Please listen to the TV and radio and act calmly and accordingly. A tsunami warning has been issued so please evacuate immediately from the coastal areas.”

A novelist who has written about the Fukushima disaster and now lives in the city, Yu Miri, wrote on Twitter that some items had fallen in her home during the latest quake, but that “our family and cats are not injured.”

Hikari Hida, Hisako Ueno and Makiko Inoue contributed reporting.

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Credit…Philip Fong/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

TOKYO — Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan said on Thursday that the country’s Self-Defense Forces have been mobilized to assess the damage after the strong earthquake that hit off the northern coast of the country left about two million people without power.

“We are still trying to understand the situation and collect information,” he said at a news briefing. “The government will come together to save people’s lives and to make all-out efforts to provide safety and provide accurate information.”

A tsunami advisory remained in place for Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures. A small tsunami of 20 centimeters, about eight inches, hit Miyagi’s Ishinomaki Port at 12:30 a.m. on Thursday, according to NHK, the public broadcaster.

The tsunami warning center in the United States said there was no tsunami danger for the U.S. West Coast, British Columbia and Alaska.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as Tepco, said that of the households without power, close to 700,000 were in Tokyo. Japan Rail East, a main network, has suspended most of its train lines.

Tepco is inspecting nuclear power plants, including the Fukushima Daiichi plant that melted down 11 years ago when a powerful wall of water that followed a devastating earthquake knocked out the reactors’ cooling systems.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said that so far it had detected no abnormalities at power plants in Fukushima, Onagawa and Tokai. But it added that it was conducting further inspections of the Fukushima plant.

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Credit…Issei Kato/Reuters

An earthquake late Wednesday off Japan stirred fears that it might be a repeat of another powerful temblor along the same coast 11 years ago that set off a tsunami and the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

On March 11, 2011, the Fukushima nuclear disaster began after an earthquake with a magnitude of nearly 9.0 struck off the east coast of Honshu, Japan’s main island. The tsunami it unleashed tore across northeastern Japan, killing more than 19,000 people. The tsunami, which reached more than 45 feet in height, flooded the emergency power generators in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Japan. That led to the meltdown of three of the plant’s six reactors.

About 164,000 people were forced to leave the area, and cleanup efforts continue to this day. Last year, Japan decided to release some of the tons of accumulated wastewater that had been used to cool the damaged reactors. That decision was criticized by environmentalists, fishermen and some of Japan’s neighbors who feared that the treated wastewater could still pose a threat.

Shortly before the 2011 disaster, government regulators approved a 10-year extension for the oldest of the plant’s reactors despite warnings about safety, including cracks in the emergency power generators that made them vulnerable to seawater. Critics said that approval highlighted an unhealthy relationship between the plant operators and regulators.

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Credit…Kyodo News, via Getty Images

TOKYO — More than an hour after a powerful earthquake struck off the coast of Fukushima in northern Japan, a small tsunami, with waves measuring about eight inches, hit the Port of Ishinomaki in the Miyagi Prefecture early Thursday morning.

Close to 49,000 people were advised to evacuate the Miyagi area.

Small tsunami waves also measuring about eight inches — 20 centimeters — were later reported to the south, in Sendai, which is also in Miyagi.

Warnings remained in place for both the Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures, and meteorological officials warned that subsequent waves could be higher. There have been no reports of damage or injuries as a result of the tsunami.

A mild aftershock with a magnitude of 5.6 hit off the Miyagi coast at just before 1 a.m. on Thursday morning. The epicenter was about 31 feet below the sea.

In Tokyo, NHK, the public broadcaster, reported that the Fire Department was trying to extract people stuck in elevators in several locations around the city.

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Credit…Hiro Komae/Associated Press

A large earthquake in northeastern Japan derailed a bullet train as it traveled between Fukushima and Shiroshizaou stations, according to Japan’s national broadcaster NHK. Around 100 people were believed to have been aboard. No injuries have been reported.

On Twitter, users posted photos said to be from inside the train, showing minor damage. Riders are being evacuated. While it’s common for trains in Japan to be delayed after an earthquake as workers check for damage, derailments are rare.

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Credit…Philip Fong/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

American scientists monitoring the 7.3 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Japan said it was unlikely to generate a destructive tsunami or cause mass casualties.

“We usually don’t see a destructive tsunami until you get to around 7.5,” said Don Blakeman, a geophysicist with the National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo.

The U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center said a tsunami was not expected for the West Coast of the United States.

The earthquake was approximately 30 miles off the coast of Japan. The closest municipality to the epicenter appeared to be Minamisoma, southeast of the city of Fukushima.

Reported shaking from the area was enough to create significant damage, experts said.

“We don’t expect widespread casualties from this earthquake but there could be considerable damage,” Paul Earle, seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said.

It was impossible to know whether the earthquake was a foreshock for a larger earthquake but the chances of that were small, he said. The 7.3 earthquake was preceded by a 6.4 magnitude quake two minutes earlier.

The 2011 earthquake in Japan, with a magnitude of about 9, was 500 times more powerful than Wednesday’s 7.3 magnitude.

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Credit…Jiji Press, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

TOKYO — As a powerful temblor shook homes, cut out power and derailed a bullet train in northern Japan late on Wednesday night, the memories of the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that struck Japan 11 years ago quickly flooded back.

As of 4 a.m. on Thursday, NHK, the public broadcaster, reported one death in Minamisoma and at least 88 people injured across several prefectures.

“Another big earthquake again,” wrote one user on Twitter. “11 years ago, I watched an explosion at the Fukushima power plant on TV after the quake hit Fukushima.” Remembering the rush to evacuate parents who lived not far from the nuclear plant where three reactors melted down, the Twitter user wrote, “I recalled the horror of that day.”

Another person who recalled going without food or water after the March 11, 2011, earthquake offered some advice: “A disaster comes by the time we forget. Be careful, everyone.”

Aiko Sawada, a retired medical researcher, wrote on Twitter, “Another big earthquake in Tohoku. And so soon after the anniversary of 3.11. I pray that the damage stays minimal.”

A sense of protracted trauma permeated many social media comments soon after the quake on Wednesday.

“The moment the earthquake occurred, I was reminded of the Great East Japan Earthquake,” wrote another poster. “There aren’t many days when I feel safe. I am very concerned about the safety of people in the Fukushima and Miyagi areas. Please be careful of aftershocks.”

Anxiety about another nuclear accident was also a recurring theme.

“Every time an earthquake hits, I’m worried about nuclear plants,” read one post. “It’s very dangerous to build nuclear plants in Japan.”

Wednesday’s quake caused far less damage than the much larger one in 2011. The tsunami waves it set off were all small in scale, far lower than in 2011, when some waves reached more than 45 feet in height and more than 19,000 people died. More than 2,500 people are still considered missing.

Hikari Hida, Hisako Ueno, Makiko Inoue and Hiroko Tabuchi contributed reporting

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