• Kyodo

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The powerful earthquake that hit northeastern Japan early Tuesday caused a fire at a research facility run by chemical maker Kureha Corp. and prompted numerous businesses, including a Nissan Motor Co. plant, to suspend operations.

Companies in the Tohoku region scrambled to gather information and assess damage to their facilities that could affect business operations. The region includes Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, which were devastated by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.

Shortly after 6 a.m., a fire broke out at Kureha’s research facility in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, where experiments are conducted around the clock.

“We experienced a fire momentarily,” a person at the facility said, adding that the blaze was extinguished quickly.

Nissan Motor Co. said it decided to suspend operations at an engine manufacturing plant in Iwaki as workers evacuated.

The 5:59 a.m. quake registered a preliminary magnitude of 7.4, and a tsunami over 1 meter high was observed in Miyagi Prefecture, north of Iwaki.

Three supermarket outlets operated by Aeon Co. in Miyagi Prefecture were closed temporarily after a tsunami advisory was issued.

The Miyagi-based 77 Bank suspended business operations at 22 branches and opened some branches later than usual.

Toho Bank held back a truck that provides banking services for 3/11 evacuees in the town of Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, after a cooling system for spent nuclear fuel at the nearby Fukushima No. 2 power plant temporarily stopped operating.

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