Powerful Quake off Japan Rekindles Fears of Another Fukushima

TOKYO — A strong undersea earthquake off the Fukushima area of Japan, the place a tsunami a decade in the past set off one of many worst nuclear plant disasters in historical past, shook buildings for greater than two minutes late Wednesday night time.

Then the ready started.

Shortly after the quake hit at 11:36 p.m., the Japan Meteorological Company issued tsunami warnings for the prefectures of Fukushima and Miyagi, and hundreds of residents, lots of whom bear in mind solely too properly the destruction of 2011, evacuated.

“Please put out any fires,” officers within the metropolis of Minamisoma, in Fukushima, instructed residents as they urged them to get to safer ground. “Please take heed to the TV and radio and act calmly and accordingly.”

Hours later, the warnings had been lifted.

A number of small tsunami waves measuring maybe 20 centimeters in peak (eight inches) had been reported in two communities, however they had been one-fifth the dimensions that was forecast — and tiny in comparison with the 45-foot wave that devastated the area in 2011. Greater than 19,000 individuals died in that disaster.

“In plenty of areas, there was plenty of stuff thrown in all places, like recordsdata and every little thing,” mentioned Shelly Reid, a workers member at Minamisoma Metropolis Corridor. “Some roads had been broken, particularly alongside the coast. There have been some landslides.”

One individual in Minamisoma was confirmed useless after Wednesday’s quake.

The earthquake measured magnitude 7.3 — sturdy sufficient to do severe structural injury — however the magnitude 9 Tohoku quake that induced the catastrophic 2011 tsunami was a whole lot of occasions as highly effective. The epicenter of the earthquake on Wednesday was 20 miles off the east coast of Japan, and about 37 miles beneath the ocean.

“We often don’t see a damaging tsunami till you get to round 7.5,” mentioned Don Blakeman, a geophysicist with the Nationwide Earthquake Data Heart in Golden, Colo.

However the injury stories had been nonetheless coming in early Thursday morning, and the quake, which could possibly be felt in Tokyo, virtually 200 miles away, did extra than simply rattle nerves in a rustic the place many look ahead to the earth beneath their ft to maneuver once more at any second.

Two million individuals had been left with out energy, if solely briefly, and fireplace departments had been known as to rescue passengers trapped in elevators. A bullet prepare carrying about 100 individuals between the Fukushima and Shiroshizaou stations derailed, though there have been no stories of accidents. And passengers on subway trains posted movies of vehicles swaying precariously as they made their means by way of tunnels.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida mentioned the nation’s Self-Protection Forces had been mobilized to evaluate the injury.

“We’re nonetheless attempting to know the scenario and gather info,” he mentioned at a information briefing. “The federal government will come collectively to save lots of individuals’s lives and to make all-out efforts to offer security and supply correct info.”

The depth of the earthquake equaled that of the Kobe earthquake of 1995, which killed greater than 6,000 individuals. The distinction was its depth beneath the ocean.

Many Japanese famous that the quake occurred simply 5 days after the nation noticed the eleventh anniversary of the Fukushima catastrophe.

“One other large earthquake in Tohoku,” Aiko Sawada, a retired medical researcher, wrote on Twitter. “And so quickly after the anniversary of three.11. I pray that the injury stays minimal.”

After the earthquake in 2011, one of the highly effective ever measured, tsunami waves breached the protecting sea partitions of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and inundated the power, resulting in the meltdown of three reactors.

On Thursday, Japanese officers got down to examine nuclear crops within the area quickly after the quake hit. They mentioned they’d detected no abnormalities at crops in Fukushima; in Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture; or in Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture.

The Tokyo Electrical Energy Firm did say {that a} fireplace alarm had gone off at one of many reactors on the defunct Fukushima Daiichi plant. The plant has been present process an unlimited cleanup for the reason that catastrophe 11 years in the past.

And water pumps for spent gasoline cooling swimming pools at a separate energy plant in Fukushima had been down early Thursday, however Tokyo Electrical mentioned there was nonetheless water within the swimming pools for now, and that each pumps had returned to operation earlier than 2 a.m., in response to NHK, the general public broadcaster.

The tsunami that crippled that plant left Japan with a formidable problem: How does a quake- and tsunami-prone island nation dotted with nuclear reactors shield towards one other calamity?

To quell lingering fears, Japanese nuclear regulators in recent times have ordered a flurry of recent security measures on the nation’s reactors, together with new sea partitions, flood gates and safety for the very important backup turbines that energy the pumps that cool the new reactor cores.

However the process is appreciable, and deep mistrust of nuclear energy persists amongst many Japanese.

On the Hamaoka nuclear energy plant, for instance, which is perched on the Pacific coast west of Tokyo, employees constructed a 72-foot sea wall, among the many tallest within the nation, to guard its three reactors. Then got here the unhealthy information: Scientists engaged on new projections of potential tsunamis within the area warned final 12 months that waves may attain virtually 74 ft.

Hamaoka stays shuttered, as do lots of Japan’s different reactors.

A decade later, nuclear energy, which as soon as supplied a few third of Japan’s electrical energy, now accounts for only some %. Thirty-three reactors are able to producing energy — however simply 5 are doing so. The remaining are both present process inspections or awaiting approval to restart.

Motoko Wealthy reported from Tokyo, and Eric Nagourney from New York. Reporting was contributed by Hiroko Tabuchi and Nadav Gavrielov in New York and Thomas Fuller in Washington.

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