A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 struck off the coast of eastern Japan on Saturday, sparking fears of a ‘leak’ at a nuclear power plant.
The epicentre of the earthquake was off the coast of Fukushima prefecture at a depth of 60 km (36 miles) and triggered widespread blackouts, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
The earthquake hit at 11:08 p.m. local time (1408 GMT) and shook houses and offices in Tokyo, and was followed by aftershocks, including a 4.7 magnitude jolt, JMA said. But there appeared to be no major damage and no tsunami warning was issued.
There were fears that there had been a leak of nuclear fuel at the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power plant, according to local broadcaster NHK – but this was denied by the facility.
Pool water used for storing spent nuclear fuel reportedly ‘leaked into a ditch next to the pool’ – and thereby contaminated the surrounding area – after the water overflowed due to the earthquake’s tremors, according to Tokyo Electronic Power Company (TEPCO).
But the Nuclear Regulatory Agency said the amount of pool water is small and there was ‘no effect on the cooling of nuclear fuel’.
They added that the radiation dose is low, so there is no concern about workers being exposed to it.
A liquor shop’s manager clears the damaged bottles following an earthquake in Fukushima, Japan Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. The Japan Meteorological Agency says a strong earthquake has hit off the coast of northeastern Japan, shaking Fukushima, Miyagi and other areas
Pictured: Files are scattered following an earthquake at a meeting room of Kyodo News Sendai branch office in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021
A building is seen collapsed on a road following an earthquake in Koorimachi, Fukushima prefecutre, northeastern Japan
Damaged buildings are seen in Fukushima on February 13, 2021 after a strong 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck late off the eastern coast of Japan
TEPCO reported: ‘A patrol found that about 160 ml of pool water for storing spent nuclear fuel at Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant Unit 1 in preparation for decommissioning in Fukushima Prefecture had leaked into a ditch next to the pool
‘As of 1:40 am, no major abnormalities have been found at the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant, and there is no change in the values of the monitoring posts that measure radiation levels around the nuclear power plant.’
At least two dozen people were injured by the earthquake, according to reports from the Kyodo news agency.
The Meteorological Agency said no tsunami warning had been issued and the quake had a magnitude of 7.3, raising it from a preliminary magnitude of 7.1.
It hit near the epicentre of a 2011 killer quake which triggered a towering tsunami and killed more than 18,000.
About 950,000 households were without power, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato addressed reporters after midnight and said evaluations were under way.
He said there were no irregularities at two nuclear facilities, Fukushima Dai-ni and Onagawa. Authorities were still checking at Fukushima Dai-ichi, he said.
Kato said there was no danger of a tsunami from the quake. He said that some trains in northeastern Japan had stopped running, and that other damage was still being checked.
A house is damaged and a pile of shattered slates and rubble has formed on the pavement after the earthquake in Koorimachi, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan early Sunday
‘As far as damage, casualties and structural damage are being assessed,’ he said, adding that sections of the bullet train had been suspended due to power outages.
‘Surveys are being done at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant,’ he said.
‘We have received reports that Onagawa nuclear plant and Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant are not showing any abnormality,’ he added.
Video from public broadcaster NHK TV showed some pieces of a building wall had broken off and fallen to the ground. Items fell off shelves because of the shaking, NHK said.
NHK also said there were no reports of irregularities at another nuclear facility at Tokaimura, in Ibaraki prefecture.
Water covers a floor of Fukushima station as it leaks from a ceiling following an earthquake in Fukushima, northeastern Japan Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021
A house is damaged with materials strewn across the road following an earthquake in Koorimachi, Fukishima prefecture, northeastern Japan early Sunday February 14
People gather at Sendai station after a strong earthquake hit northeastern Japan, in Sendai, northeastern Japan, late 13 February 2021
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings said there was no change in the radiation levels around its plants.
The quake threw dishes from shelves in houses in the region, but there were no immediate reports of damage.
Images shown online and posted on social media showed broken glass at a shop and items spilled off the shelves at a supermarket.
Renowned author Yu Miri, who lives in Fukushima’s Minamisoma city, tweeted a photo of her home, showing books, pot plants and bookcases strewn across the floor. ‘My house in Odaka, Minamisoma city is all messed up,’ she wrote.
A Reuters cameraman on location in Fukushima said his 10th floor hotel room shook for some time. One man at the hotel was taken to hospital after falling and hitting his head on a door, the cameraman said.
Although injured, the man was still able to walk, the cameraman said.
A man is visibly upset when he finds his cupboard has collapsed at his home in Minamisoma, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan
A firefighter vehicle patrols streets following a strong earthquake in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture, Japan February 13, 2021
Left: Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato (R) runs to the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo on February 13, 2021 after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck late on Saturday night. Right:A lamp is used during an outage following an earthquake in Ichikawa, Chiba prefecture, about 230 kilometers (143 miles) away from Fukushima
Local media reported the quake threw dishes from shelves in houses in the region, but there were no immediate reports of damage.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was called to his office, and broadcaster NHK said the government would set up a special liaison office to coordinate with affected regions.
‘We will continue to respond, putting human lives first,’ Suga told reporters early Sunday, adding there were no reports of serious injuries.
Some trains in the region were stopped after the quake.
Pictured: A map showing the location of Saturday’s 7.1 magnitude earthquake
The quake threw dishes from shelves in houses in the region, but there were no immediate reports of damage. Pictured: A video shows objects falling off shelves in the earthquake
A Japan Meteorological Agency earthquake information planning officer speaks during a conference about the quake on February 14
The quake hit off of Fukushima just weeks before the 10-year anniversary of the March 11, 2011, quake that devastated northeast Japan and triggered a massive tsunami that led to the world’s worst nuclear crisis in a quarter of a century.
Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world’s most seismically active areas.
The country sits on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’, an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.
Japan accounts for about 20 percent of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.
In September 2018, a powerful 6.6-magnitude quake rocked Hokkaido, triggering landslides, collapsing houses and killing more than 40.
Pictured: A video from a person in Japan experiencing tremors from the earthquake
The quake hit off of Fukushima just weeks before the 10-year anniversary of the March 11, 2011, quake that devastated northeast Japan and triggered a massive tsunami that led to the world’s worst nuclear crisis in a quarter of a century (pictured)