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Japan rocked by 6.9 magnitude quake

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 22/11/2016
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A 6.9 magnitude earthquake has struck near the coast of Japan causing tsunami waves up to 1.4 metres high.

The quake hit early on Tuesday, local time, 67km northeast of Iwaki and at a depth of 10km, the US Geological Survey said.

It hit at 5.59am local time (9.59am NZT) and was felt in Tokyo. The quake was originally thought to be 7.3 magnitude but was quickly downgraded.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said, "Hazardous tsunami waves are possible for coasts located within 300km of the earthquake epicentre".

Public broadcaster NHK reported a 1.4 m tsunami wave at Sendai, a 60cm wave at Fukushima's Onahama Port and a 90 cm tsunami at Soma, in the same district, soon after.

A screengrab of the live feed from Japanese broadcaster NHK, showing Onahama Port in Fukushima prefecture and warning residents to evacuate. © Nhk A screengrab of the live feed from Japanese broadcaster NHK, showing Onahama Port in Fukushima prefecture and warning residents to evacuate.

Smaller waves have been reported at other ports. Further waves were expected, and residents have been advised to evacuate some coastal areas. There are reports of minor injuries in the quake.

Civil Defence said there was no tsunami threat to New Zealand.

The region is the same that was devastated by a tsunami following a massive earthquake in 2011. All nuclear plants on the coast threatened by the tsunami are shut down in the wake of the March 2011 disaster, which knocked out Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, spilling radiation into the air and sea.

A spokeswoman for Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said the cooling system for a storage pool for spent nuclear fuel at reactor at its Fukushima Daini Plant had been halted, but a spokesman said the cooling system had restarted soon after.

  Japan tsunami warning 22 November 2016 © Japan tsunami warning 22 November 2016

No other damage from the quake has been confirmed at any of its power plants, although there have been blackouts in some areas, the spokeswoman added.

Only two reactors are operating in Japan, both in the southwest of the country. Even when in shutdown nuclear plants need cooling systems operating to keep spent fuel cool.

Television footage showed ships moving out to sea from Fukushima harbours, as the meteorological agency warned of a tsunami of 3 metres for Fukushima, where Tepco's Daiichi nuclear plant was devastated in a March 2011 quake and tsunami.

An Iwaki city fire department official said there was smoke or fire at Kureha's research centre in a petrochemical complex in Iwaki city at 6.17 am but it was extinguished shortly after. He said no other major damage in the city has been reported at the moment.

Abrupt awakening

New Zealand tour operator Wendy Harnett was on the seventh floor of her apartment building said the earthquake was a long slow rolling one.

Wendy Harnett, who runs custom tours out of Tokyo, said the quake did not feel as bad as one that struck closer to Tokyo two months ago.

She said Japan's tsunami warning system was impressive and left people in no doubt whether to leave their homes, and New Zealand could learn from it.

Chris Gilbert, a New Zealander in Tokyo, said it was an abrupt awakening.

"It was rather unwelcome and rather scarey.

"My first thoughts were of New Zealand, and what happened in Japan in 2011 so soon after New Zealand."

There are currently 424 New Zealanders registered as being in Japan.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said those in the affected area should follow the advice of the local authorities - including any tsunami evacuation instructions - and keep in touch with any family in this country.

Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world's most seismically active areas. Japan accounts for about 20 percent of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.

The March 2011 quake was magnitude 9, the strongest quake in Japan on record. The massive tsunami it triggered caused world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl a quarter of a century earlier.

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