A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.4 has struck off the coast of Fukushima in northeast Japan, prompting a tsunami warning for local coastlines, seismologists say. Several people have been injured. (more)
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The earthquake, which struck at 6:01 a.m. local time on Tuesday, was centered in the ocean about 61 kilometers (38 miles) southeast of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture. It struck at a depth of just 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), making it a very shallow earthquake.
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) put the preliminary magnitude of the earthquake at 7.4. Strong shaking was felt across Fukushima, with shaking of lesser intensity felt across other parts of the main island, as far away as the capital Tokyo.
As a result of the earthquake, a tsunami warnings have been issued for Fukushima Prefecture and Miyagi Prefecture. "Evacuate immediately from coastal regions and riverside areas to a safer place such as high ground or an evacuation building," JMA said.
By 9 a.m., tsunami waves were reported in several coastal areas, but it was not immediately known if the tsunamis had caused any damage. A tsunami of at least 1.4 meter (4.6 feet) was observed at Sendai-ko Port in Miyagi Prefecture at 8:03 a.m., but the tsunami may have been higher at the coast.
Tsunami advisories have also been issued for the Pacific coast of Aomori Precture, Iwate Prefecutre, Miyagi Prefecture, Ibaraki Prefecture, the Kujukuri, Sotobo and Uchibo areas of Chiba Prefecture, and the Izu Islands. For those areas, people are advised to get out of the water and to leave the coasts.
There are reports of some damage, including in Iwaki City where a fire broke out at a chemical plant but was extinguished in about 40 minutes. So far, 3 people have been confirmed to have been injured, including an elderly woman in the town of Yabuki, 1 person in Fukushima City, and 1 person in Matsudo in Chiba Prefecture.
At the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant, the cooling system for the spent fuel pool at Unit 3 temporarily failed. The Nuclear Regulation Authority said the system was back online within two hours and emphasized that there was no threat to public safety, noting that it would have taken a week for a dangerous situation to develop if the cooling system had remained offline.
Other information about damage or casualties is not yet available, but there is no indication of serious damage or fatalities.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no indication of a tsunami threat for other countries. "Based on the preliminary earthquake parameters, hazardous tsunami waves are possible for coasts located within 300 km of the earthquake epicenter," the center said.
Japan sits on the so-called 'Pacific Ring of Fire', an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin which is prone to frequent and large earthquakes. Volcanic eruptions also occur frequently in the region.
In March 2011, an enormous 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of northeastern Japan, generating a devastating tsunami that wiped out entire communities and killed at least 15,893 people and left more than 2,500 others missing and presumed dead.
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