7.3 'aftershock' rattles Tohoku

Small tsunami hit coastline but no damage reported


A magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck in the Pacific off the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex early Saturday, triggering small tsunami but causing no damage.

An official with the Meteorological Agency said that the powerful temblor was an aftershock of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck the same area of the seabed on March 11, 2011, killing or leaving missing around 19,000 people and causing three core meltdowns at Fukushima No. 1.

There was no damage and only one minor injury was reported from the quake, which occurred at 2:10 a.m., according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency of the internal affairs ministry.

Tsunami of up to 40 cm affected four areas along the coast, but a tsunami advisory was lifted less than two hours after the quake.

The epicenter of the temblor was around 290 km off Fukushima Prefecture, and it was felt some 480 km away in Tokyo.

“It was fairly big and rattled quite a bit, but nothing fell to the floor or broke. We’ve had quakes of this magnitude before,” said Satoshi Mizuno, an official with the Fukushima Prefectural Government’s disaster management department. “Luckily, the quake’s center was very far off the coast.”

Tokyo Electric Power Co. reported finding no damage or abnormalities at its destroyed Fukushima No. 1 atomic plant, Mizuno said.

The Meteorological Agency issued a 1-meter tsunami advisory for a long stretch of the northeastern coast. It put the quake’s magnitude at 7.1, while the U.S. Geological Survey estimated it as magnitude 7.3. The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not post any regional alerts.

The agency reported tsunami of 40 cm in the city of Kuji, Iwate prefecture, and in the city of Soma in Fukushima, as well as 30-cm tsunami at Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture and 20-cm tsunami at the city of Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture.

All of Japan’s 50 commercial nuclear reactors remain offline while the government decides whether they meet more stringent requirements enacted after the 2011 quake-tsunami disaster, which triggered the Fukushima meltdowns and the discharge of massive leaks of radioactive materials.

The Fukushima No. 1 plant lies about 250 km northeast of Tokyo.

A string of mishaps this year at the crippled plant has raised international concerns about the ability of Tepco and the government to tackle the continuing crisis.

Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has scheduled a Monday meeting with Tepco President Naomi Hirose to seek solutions to what he says appear to be fundamental problems with the current situation at Fukushima No. 1.