Strong quake hits off Japan coast, triggering blackouts

Strong quake hits off Japan coast, triggering blackouts

TOKYO: A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.1 hit off the coast of eastern Japan on Saturday (Feb 13), shaking buildings and triggering widespread blackouts, but there appeared to be no major damage and no tsunami warning was issued.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters that no major casualties were reported, according to Kyodo news agency, which reported that more than 50 people had been injured, but he gave no further details.

There were no immediate reports of significant damage, though local news broadcast images of a landslide on a highway.

The epicentre of the earthquake was off the coast of Fukushima prefecture at a depth of 60km, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. It hit at 11.08pm local time (10.08pm, Singapore time) and shook buildings in the capital Tokyo and elsewhere.

No tsunami warning had been issued, the meteorological agency said.

Some 950,000 households were initially without power, government spokesman Katsunobu Kato told a briefing carried on public broadcaster NHK. The blackouts appeared to be concentrated in northeast Japan, including Fukushima and neighbouring prefectures.

Suga, who was called to his office over the earthquake, told journalists his cabinet will meet at 9:00 am Sunday for a briefing, Kyodo said.

Broadcaster NHK added that the government would set up a special liaison office to coordinate with affected regions.

READ: Japan to release Fukushima contaminated water into sea: Reports

A Reuters cameraman on location in Fukushima said his tenth floor hotel room shook heavily for some time. One man at the hotel was taken to hospital after falling and hitting his head on a door, the Reuters cameraman said.

Although injured, the man was still able to walk, the cameraman said.

Footage from television also showed broken glass from shop fronts, while Kyodo news reported about a dozen injuries, although none immediately appeared to be grave.

Images posted online showed broken glass at a shop and items spilled off the shelves at a supermarket.

Tomoko Kobayashi, who works at a traditional inn in Fukushima's Minamisoma city told Kyodo that "the initial jolt felt more powerful than the one I experienced in the Great East Japan Earthquake" of 2011.

Renowned author Yu Miri, who also lives in Minamisoma, tweeted a photo of her home, showing books, potted plants and other belongings strewn across the floor.

"My house in Odaka, Minamisoma city is all messed up," she wrote.

"I hear the ground rumbling. And another quake," she tweeted about an aftershock.

There were no irregularities at the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants, or at the Kahiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, owner Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings said.

The utility also said there was no change in the radiation levels around its plants.

Kato said there were no irregularities at the Fukushima Daini and Onagawa nuclear facilities.

The quake hit off of Fukushima just weeks before the 10-year anniversary of the Mar 11, 2011, quake that devastated northeast Japan and triggered a massive tsunami that led to the world's worst nuclear crisis in a quarter of a century - one centred at the Daiichi facility.

Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world's most seismically active areas. Japan accounts for about 20 per cent of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater. 

The country has strict construction regulations intended to ensure buildings can withstand strong tremors.

In September 2018, a powerful 6.6-magnitude quake rocked Hokkaido, triggering landslides, collapsing houses and killing more than 40.

Source: Reuters/ta