An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 struck the Tohoku region just before noon Tuesday, injuring at least 58 people, mainly in Miyagi Prefecture, and giving areas as far away as Tokyo a good long jolt.
The quake, which struck at 11:46 a.m., registered lower 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale in the town of Kawasaki in southern Miyagi Prefecture and 4 in central Tokyo, according to the Meteorological Agency.
Four people sustained serious injuries, but no one was reported dead or missing. Those injured were treated at hospitals in Miyagi Prefecture and four other prefectures including Tokyo.
In Sendai, 26 people, nine of them children, were injured when the ceiling of a new indoor pool collapsed, the Sendai fire department said. There were 265 people in the pool at the time.
The quake also flattened a house in Saitama Prefecture and damaged 280 others in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.
About 4,000 passengers were trapped in six bullet trains for up to eight hours as services on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line were halted by the temblor. Roughly 1,500 people on two other trains halted near JR Sendai Station had to get out and walk along the elevated tracks to get to the station.
The earthquake was initially announced as having a magnitude of 6.8, but the Meteorological Agency later revised it and warned that aftershocks with an intensity of around upper 5 on the Japanese seismic scale could strike within the next month.
The quake originated in a thrust fault under the Pacific about 80 km off Miyagi Prefecture, the agency said. Is focus was about 42 km below the seabed.
The agency issued a tsunami warning and lifted it after waves 10 cm high were observed just after noon on the coast of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.
Officials in Shizugawa, Miyagi Prefecture, said the sea level in the port rose 40 cm but there were no injuries. The town had urged residents to prepare for evacuation.
About 17,000 households in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures lost power after the quake, Tohoku Electric Power Co. said.
Nuclear power plants in Miyagi and Ibaraki prefectures, including the Onagawa power station in Miyagi, automatically halted operations.
Several landslides were reported in Miyagi Prefecture, including one that injured a 7-year-old boy in Zao.
In Kazo, Saitama Prefecture, where the shaking registered 4 on the Japanese scale, an 80-year-old woman was trapped when her wooden house collapsed but was rescued without injury, the Saitama Prefectural Police said.
The Tohoku Shinkansen Line was halted and overhead wires were severed in two locations between Furukawa Station in Miyagi Prefecture and Fukushima Station in Fukushima Prefecture. There were no reports of any derailments or injuries.
Trains on the Yamagata and Akita shinkansen lines were also suspended, and the Sendai subway system was temporarily stopped.
Travelers laden with luggage lined up at the JR Sendai Station counter for information and refunds of bullet and other train fares.
Amid the Bon holiday season, all reserved bullet train seats up until around 8:30 p.m. had been fully booked, but it was only just before 10 p.m. that services resumed between Tokyo and Sendai.
The Sendai weather observatory said the temblor “originated almost at the same spot as the 1978 (Miyagi) Earthquake, but the magnitude was smaller than expected.” It was referring to the magnitude-7.4 earthquake that struck Sendai and nearby areas in June 1978, resulting in the loss of 28 lives and leaving more than 10,000 people injured.
Katsuyuki Abe, a professor at the University of Tokyo, said Tuesday’s quake may have been the big quake that experts have been predicting for the region. “In terms of location and mechanism, this quake bears the features of the Miyagi earthquake scenario,” Abe said.
A government panel said in January there was a 99 percent likelihood of a magnitude-7 or greater temblor hitting the area within 30 years. Nine quakes of magnitude-6.4 or above, including the latest one, have occurred off the Miyagi coast since 1933.
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