7.three magnitude earthquake close to the location of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, Japan

TOKYO – A 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan’s Fukushima prefecture on Saturday, which caused one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters nearly a decade ago.

The Japan Meteorological Agency announced that the quake – which was originally 7.1 magnitude – occurred at 11:08 pm local time (9:08 am CET) at a depth of 34 miles. Fourteen aftershocks were recorded and it was added that no tsunami warning had been issued.

The quake could also be felt in Japan’s capital Tokyo.

“No anomalies were reported from any of the nuclear facilities,” said Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at a press conference. “Everything is normal.”

Checks are still being carried out to determine the number of injuries, he said, urging people not to venture outside and be prepared for aftershocks.

Cabinet chief Katsunobu Kato said earlier in Tokyo at a separate press conference that nearly 850,000 households in areas around Tokyo and northern Japan were left without electricity.

“Where the tremors were felt most strongly, there is a higher risk of structural collapse and landslide,” a spokeswoman for the Japan Meteorological Agency told the press in Tokyo. In addition, people should be careful with tremors.

Fukushima became synonymous with a nuclear disaster in March 2011 when the area was struck by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake – the strongest in Japanese history. A tsunami soon followed in which more than 15,000 people died and 2,500 more were missing.

The deadly wall of water struck through the walls of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, cutting off the power supply, melting three nuclear reactors and spewing radioactive particles into the air. It will take decades before the system is safely shut down.

The space for the 1 million tons of water – the equivalent of 400 Olympic swimming pools – that must be pumped through the reactor to keep the fuel cool is also running out. While the water has been treated to remove most of the dangerous radioactive components, traces of tritium remain.

Kato said the facility was being inspected but had “no concerns about a tsunami causing damage” and “no anomalies” had been reported at the site. The investigations continued to ensure that there was no structural damage, he added.

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The Tokyo Electric Power Company, which operates the facility, also tweeted that it had checked its facilities and found “no anomalies”.

As a sign of rebirth, Fukushima was to host parts of the Summer Olympics, which should take place in Japan in 2020. However, the games have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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

Arata Yamamoto reported from Tokyo and Adela Suliman from London.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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