• staff report, kyodo

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Tokyo and surrounding prefectures were jolted by a strong earthquake on Thursday night, leaving more than 20 people injured and bringing the strongest shaking to the capital’s central wards since the Great East Japan Earthquake disaster in 2011.

Following the magnitude 5.9 quake, which occurred at 10:41 p.m., TV footage showed a home on fire, water leaking from manholes, a partially derailed passenger train and darkened railway stations full of stranded passengers.

The magnitude was originally reported as 6.1 and later downgraded by the Meteorological Agency.

The agency warned that a quake of similar intensity could occur within the week, with an official estimating a 10% to 20% chance based on previous temblors.

A Meteorological Agency map shows the intensity of Thursday's earthquake in the Kanto area. | JAPAN METEOROLOGICAL AGENCY
A Meteorological Agency map shows the intensity of Thursday’s earthquake in the Kanto area. | JAPAN METEOROLOGICAL AGENCY

While the strong jolt frightened many people in the Tokyo area, the agency said the latest temblor was smaller in scale than one feared to be likely in the future, which would have a focus just below the metropolitan area and result in devastation with large-scale human casualties.

More than 20 commuter lines in the capital and surrounding areas went offline following the quake, but some lines began resuming operations in the early hours of Friday.

The quake logged a strong 5 on the seismic intensity scale of 7 in parts of Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture, with the focus in northwestern Chiba Prefecture at a depth of about 80 kilometers, the Meteorological Agency said.

The last time a quake measuring strong 5 or more was registered in Tokyo’s 23 wards was on March 11, 2011, when a magnitude 9.0 quake struck northeastern Japan, the agency said.

A burst water pipe in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture, following Thursday's earthquake | KYODO
A burst water pipe in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture, following Thursday’s earthquake | KYODO

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, whose government immediately set up a task force to respond to the quake, entered his office at around 11:20 p.m. on Thursday. He told reporters he had ordered officials to help quake victims and prevent further damage.

The government’s top spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, told a news conference that there were no abnormalities reported at nuclear facilities.

A Nippori-Toneri Liner train in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward partially derailed after making an emergency stop, leaving at least three passengers injured, NHK said. Fire department officials in Chiba Prefecture reported two injuries, including a teenage girl in the city of Tomisato and a woman in her 70s in the city of Mobara, the broadcaster said. One woman in her 50s in Kanagawa Prefecture was injured when she fell and hit her head, according to NHK.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. said that about 250 households in the capital’s Shinjuku Ward had experienced power outages, but service was later restored. Power also came back online at Tokyo’s Shinagawa Station after an earlier outage, reports said.

A house fire in Soka, Saitama Prefecture on Friday morning | KYODO
A house fire in Soka, Saitama Prefecture on Friday morning | KYODO

Tokyo officials said there were several reports of areas being without water or facing leaks. TV footage showed water leaking form manholes in at least two Tokyo wards.

A house fire was reported in the city of Soka, Saitama Prefecture, NHK said.

Last week, a 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck off Japan’s northwestern coast, causing no damage.

The country is regularly hit by quakes, and has strict construction regulations intended to ensure buildings can withstand strong tremors.

But it remains haunted by the memory of the March 11, 2011, undersea quake that triggered a deadly tsunami and unleashed the Fukushima nuclear accident. The tsunami left some 18,500 dead or missing.

Passengers wait at Shinagawa Station in Tokyo after trains were suspended on Thursday. | KYODO
Passengers wait at Shinagawa Station in Tokyo after trains were suspended on Thursday. | KYODO
Crowds at Shimbashi Station in Tokyo on Thursday after trains were suspended following a strong earthquake | KYODO
Crowds at Shimbashi Station in Tokyo on Thursday after trains were suspended following a strong earthquake | KYODO
Stranded passengers at Omiya Station in Saitama Prefecture on Thursday night | KYODO
Stranded passengers at Omiya Station in Saitama Prefecture on Thursday night | KYODO

Firsthand reports

A curated collection of eyewitness tweets and videos following the magnitude 5.9 quake that shook the Tokyo and Chiba areas late Thursday night.

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