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Saturday 20 September 2014

Japan hit by strong earthquake

Published 07/12/2012 | 08:49

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Children cuddle each other while their mother makes a phone call as they are stranded at Sendai railway station (AP/Kyodo News)
People crowd at Sendai railway station after trains were halted following a strong earthquake (AP/Kyodo News)

A strong earthquake struck the same Japanese coast devastated by last year's massive quake and tsunami, generating small waves but no immediate reports of heavy damage.

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Several people along the north-eastern coast were reportedly injured and buildings in Tokyo and elsewhere swayed for several minutes.

The earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.3 and struck in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Miyagi prefecture at 8.18am, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. The epicentre was 6.2 miles beneath the seabed and 150 miles offshore. The area was shaken by repeated, smaller aftershocks, the agency said.

After the quake, authorities issued a warning that a tsunami potentially as high as two metres could hit. Sirens sounded along the coast as people ran for higher ground.

Ishinomaki, a city in Miyagi, reported a tsunami one metre high and other towns reported smaller tsunamis. About two hours after the quake struck, the tsunami warning was cancelled. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre earlier said there was no risk of a widespread tsunami.

Aiko Hibiya, a volunteer for the recovery in Minami-Sanriku, a coastal town devastated by last year's tsunami, said she was at a friend's temporary housing when the quake struck. "It shook for such a long time," she said. She said other volunteers who had been in coastal areas were evacuated to a square and a car park as they waited for the tsunami warning to be lifted.

Japan has barely begun to rebuild from last year's magnitude-9.0 earthquake, which triggered a tsunami that swelled to 20 metres high in some areas, ravaging dozens of coastal communities in Miyagi and elsewhere. About 19,000 people were killed and some 325,000 people remain displaced from their homes, living in barracks and other temporary quarters.

Miyagi prefectural police said there were no immediate reports of damage from Friday's quake and tsunami, although traffic was being stopped in some places to check on roads.

Public television broadcaster NHK reported that five people were injured, including a 75-year-old woman in Miyagi who fell while fleeing the tsunami. Police said they could not immediately confirm those reports. Shortly before the earthquake struck, NHK broke off regular programming to warn that a strong quake was due to hit. Afterward, the announcer repeatedly urged all near the coast to flee to higher ground.

The Meteorological Agency has an early warning system that, using data from seismographs scattered across Japan, enables it to provide advance warning of the estimated intensity and timing of a major quake. The warning for Friday's quake was issued six minutes before it struck, according to an unnamed official from the Meteorological Agency who spoke on national television more than an hour after the quake.

Press Association

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