A powerful earthquake struck Japan on Thursday, triggering a tsunami warning for one prefecture and advisories in others. The warning and advisories were lifted about 90 minutes later, the Japan Meteorological Agency said, but it left millions of Japanese rattled. The quake was closer to the Japanese coast than last month’s 9.0-magnitude quake.
There were no reports of casualties from anywhere in the earthquake zone, though 20 people were injured, the National Police Agency said. Three of the 20 were thought to have serious injuries, said police.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said the quake was a magnitude 7.4. The U.S. Geological Survey said it was a 7.1. The USGS also said Thursday’s quake could be considered an aftershock – making it the biggest one since the March 11 quake.
Workers evacuated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant following the quake, the Tokyo Electric Power Company said. The company said it has communication with the plant and the power is still on there. There was no immediate reports of damage, it said. The workers returned later and were assessing any impact, CNN’s Kyung Lah reported Friday. About four million homes remained without power.
All seven of the workers at Fukushima Daiichi were safe, a spokesman for plant operator Tepco told a news conference in Tokyo. “They have not been injured and they have all taken shelter in our seismic-resistant building. We are continuing to inject water, or we are continuing the injection operation at reactors 1, 2 and 3,” said the spokesman, whose name was not given. (BBC) The workers are trying to keep the damaged reactors cool to stop further releases of radioactive material.
Extremely radioactive material continues to ooze out of the reactor pressure vessel at No. 2, and the leak is likely to widen with time, a senior nuclear executive said. “It’s a little like pulling a thread out of your tie,” the executive said. “Any breach gets bigger.” (New York Times) Flashes of extremely intense radioactivity have become a serious problem, he said. Tokyo Electric’s difficulties in providing accurate information on radiation are not a result of software problems, as some Japanese officials have suggested, but stem from damage to measurement instruments caused by radiation because it exceeds the maximum dose that they are designed to measure, he said. “It’s killing the measuring equipment,” he said. “They’re blaming it on software – it’s their meters getting cooked.” (New York Times)
Broken pieces of fuel rods have been found outside of Reactor No. 2, and are now being covered with bulldozers, he said. The broken pieces may be from spent fuel rods in the spent-fuel pools, rather than from the reactors themselves. Hydrogen explosions have flung them out of the reactor building. “They’re running bulldozers around to bury the stuff so it doesn’t cook people going by,” he said. (New York Times)
The quake’s epicenter was off the coast of Miyagi in northeastern Japan, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. The USGS said the quake was centered 41 miles (66 kilometers) from Sendai – one of the areas worst hit by last month’s 9.0-magnitude quake – and 73 miles (118 kilometers) from Fukushima.
Public broadcaster NHK reported a tsunami warning for Miyagi prefecture, saying people in that area should evacuate away from the shore to a safe place. NHK also reported tsunami advisories for the Pacific coast of Aomori Prefecture, and for the Iwate, Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said based on all available data, “a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami is not expected and there is not a tsunami threat to Hawaii.” (CNN)
The quake was centered 207 miles (333 kilometers) from Tokyo, the USGS said. It was 30.4 miles (49 kilometers) deep, the agency reported. The Japanese Meteorological Agency estimated the depth as 60 kilometers.
The earthquake took place shortly after 11:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m. ET).
“The earthquake was moving in an up-and-down motion,” Miri Gono in Tokyo told the BBC by e-mail. “It started off with small shakes, then shook bigger. I was alone in my house with my brother and we were so scared… We took our bottles of water and hid under the table.” (BBC)
Toru Hania, a Reuters photographer in Oshu, Iwate prefecture, said his hotel lost power and a water pipe burst. “Everything fell. My room is a complete mess and power is widely out in this area,” he said. (Reuters)
In Tokyo, buildings also shook. “It started out as nothing much, then the building started swaying quite strongly,” a Reuters witness said.
“Due to the (March 11 quake), the risk of landslides or buildings collapsing is higher than usual and there are possibilities of further damage with aftershocks,” deputy chief cabinet secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama told reporters on Friday. (Reuters)
As engineers battle multiple crisis – some the result of efforts to try to cool reactors – officials said it could take months to bring the reactors under control and years to clear up the toxic mess left behind.
The government has already set up a 20-km (12-mile) exclusion zone around the plant, banned fishing along much of the northeast coast and set up evacuation centers for the tens of thousands forced to leave their homes following the crisis.
Trace levels of radioactive material had been detected in the air in 22 Chinese provinces but the amounts did not pose a threat to health or the environment, China’s state news agency Xinhua said.
In South Korea, some schools closed on Thursday because parents were worried rain could be toxic. The few schools that closed were expected to reopen on Friday.
India said a blanket ban on food items imported from Japan was not warranted, although authorities would monitor the situation every week, a source in the Trade Ministry said. India said on April 5 it had imposed a three-month ban on imports of food from Japan.