ZTwo powerful earthquakes of magnitude 6.4 and 7.3 shook the prefectures of Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate, in northeastern Japan on Wednesday. Around 30 minutes before midnight local time, the ground shook in the region where nearly 20,000 people died in an earthquake and tsunami eleven years ago. Authorities also issued a tsunami warning on Wednesday.
More than an hour and a half after the earthquake, small tsunami waves had reached the coast in some places. Authorities initially did not give the go-ahead because the waves could intensify.
The quakes, which lasted an unusually long time, were felt as far south as the capital Tokyo and further to the southeast. The epicenter of the magnitude 7.3 earthquake was located about 60 kilometers in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Fukushima prefecture, according to the Japan Seismological Observatory. The American Seismological Service reported another earthquake in the region a few minutes earlier, with a magnitude of 6.4.
First check: no damage to nuclear power plants
After an initial verification, the energy provider Tepco announced that there were no irregular observations at the Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushai Daini nuclear power plants. The operator of the Onagawa nuclear power plant similarly reported further north. All three power plants are out of service. Eleven years ago, a triple collapse occurred at Fukushima Daiichi.
Power was cut off for more than two million people in the region and the Tokyo metropolitan area. Shinkansen express trains stopped. One of the express trains derailed in the Fukushima region. During the night there were isolated reports of fires in homes in the area. The authorities warned the population not to go to the coast. Severe aftershocks could hit the region in the coming days.
The last time people in the region experienced earthquakes as strong as Wednesday was more than a year ago. At that time, experts did not rule out that they were aftershocks of the strong earthquake eleven years ago. On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake triggered a tsunami that hit the coastal region of northeastern Japan with waves over 15 meters high. About 19,000 people lost their lives back then or are still missing today.
Emergency power generators at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant failed, resulting in a triple meltdown. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from the region and some of them are still unable to return to their places of origin.
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