Northeast Japan jolted by 6.6 magnitude quake

The earthquake struck not far from the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant

Photo: Kyodo People wait outside the ticket gates of JR Sendai Station after an earthquake shook the area, halting bullet train lines.

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 struck northeast Japan on Saturday, shaking buildings in the capital of Tokyo and raising the possibility of landsides, although no tsunami alert was issued.

The earthquake struck off the coast of north-eastern Miyagi prefecture at a depth of 60km, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. It made buildings shook in Tokyo, the capital, some 400km away and public broadcaster NHK showed footage of a building shaking strongly in the north-eastern city of Sendai. 

At the devastated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which was wrecked by a massive earthquake in northeast Japan a decade ago, operator Tokyo Electric Power said there were fortunately no issues. Likewise there were no issues at the Fukushima Daini facility just to the south. Nearer to the epicentre, there were also no issues at the Onagawa nuclear station, according to operator Tohoku Electric Power Co Inc.

But a Meteorological Agency official warned strong aftershocks may hit the region in about a week, adding that expected bad weather may trigger landslides following the latest ground shaking. Bullet train services throughout northern Japan were also suspended, with no schedule for restarting operations as checks on passengers and trains were made, an East Japan Railway Co representative said. 

At the moment of writing, only two people were slightly injured after windows were broken at a station in Onagawa, Miyagi, NHK said. The media also said a woman in her 80s was treated in hospital after she fell at a supermarket in Fukushima.

“We are aware of the news but still collecting information,” said Kazuto Takeda, an official with the prefecture’s disaster management office.

The coast off northeast Japan has been hit by multiple earthquakes in recent months, including a magnitude 7.2 quake in March and a similar-sized one in February. The magnitude 9 quake in 2011, however, remains one of the strongest earthquakes on record. 

Eneos Holdings Inc, Japan’s biggest refining company, said its Sendai refinery, also located close to the epicentre, automatically shut down as the quake struck.  Engineers were making checks after confirming there were no injuries, it said. 

The 145,000-bpd refinery had only restarted in April after being damaged by the February earthquake. That quake knocked out one fifth of Japan’s refining capacity. 

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