TOKYO: A powerful earthquake shook northern Japan on Tuesday, disrupting briefly the chilling functions of a nuclear power plant and causing a tsunami that struck the same region devastated by a massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in 2011.
The earthquake, which was felt in Tokyo, had a magnitude of 7.4, said the Japan Meteorological Service, and was centered off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture at a depth of about 10 km ( 6 miles).
There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries several hours after the earthquake struck at 5:59 am (8:59 pm GMT Monday).
A 4.5-foot tsunami was observed around Sendai, about 70 km north of Fukushima, with smaller waves hitting ports elsewhere along the coast, NHK .
Images of the television show that ships leave port from harbors, while tsunami warning signs have been reported after warnings of waves up to 3 meters (10 feet).
“We saw high waves, but nothing that surpassed tide barriers,” said a man in the town of Iwaki to NTV television network.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said the threat of the tsunami has now largely disappeared.
“Sea level fluctuations could continue along some of Japan’s coasts over the next few hours,” he said.
The US Geological Survey measured Tuesday’s earthquake at 6.9, down from an initial 7.3.
All Japanese nuclear power stations on the coast endangered by the tsunami are closed as a result of the March 2011 disaster that hit the Tokyo Electric Power Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, discharging radiation into the air and the sea.
A spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power, known as Tepco, said the cooling system from a used nuclear fuel storage tank to the reactor at its Fukushima Daini plant had been stopped. A spokesman said the cooling system had restarted soon after.
No other earthquake damage was confirmed at any of its power stations, although there were breakdowns in some areas, the spokeswoman said.
Only two reactors operate in Japan, both in the southwest. Even in the event of a shutdown, nuclear power plants require cooling systems to keep the spent fuel fresh.
Tohoku Electric Power Co. said there was no damage to its Onagawa nuclear plant, while the Kyodo news agency reported that there were no irregularities at the Tokai nuclear power plant Daini in the prefecture of Ibaraki.
A woman suffered cuts at her head from the fall of the dishes, the Kyodo news agency reported, quoting the fire officials. Japanese disaster management minister Jun Matsumoto told reporters about three hours after the earthquake that there have been no reports of significant injuries to date.
NHK showed images of the residents of Ishinomaki, a city severely hit in 2011, standing on a hill wearing hats and heavy coats, staring at the ocean. Several thousand people along the coast evacuated or were told to evacuate.
Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the most seismic areas in the world. Japan accounts for about 20% of earthquakes of magnitude 6 or higher.
The earthquake of March 11, 2011 was magnitude 9, the strongest earthquake in Japan on record. The massive tsunami it triggered caused the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl a quarter of a century earlier.
Nissan Motor Co. said it would suspend work at its engine plant in Fukushima at least until the last tsunami warning was lifted. A spokesman said there were no injuries or damage to the plant, which was severely damaged in the 2011 disaster.
Toyota Motor Corp said all its factories in northeastern Japan were operating as usual.
A Iwaki City Fire Department official said there was smoke or fire at the Kureha Research Center in a petrochemical complex in the town of Iwaki at 18:17 (Monday 2117 GMT), but Was extinguished shortly afterwards. Other details were unclear, he said, but no other significant damage had been reported in the city so far.
The famous Shinkansen trains from Japan were stopped along a stretch of track and other train lines were also stopped.
A hotel in Ofunato, also hit by the 2011 earthquake, first told customers to stay in the facility but later transported them to a higher ground.
Japanese financial markets were little affected, Nikkei futures recovering after a brief fall and the yen rising the US dollar, although still close to a five-month high reached earlier in the session.