A powerful earthquake struck near Fukushima, Japan, at approximately 6 am local time on Tuesday morning, prompting the Japan Meteorological Agency to issue a tsunami warning for residents on the island nation’s east coast.
As of 12.00pm AEDT, the Japan Meterological Agency has downgraded tsunami warnings to tsunami advisories for many of the coastal regions of Japan.
A tsunami advisory for waves of up to a meter remains in place for much of the Pacific coast.
The largest wave recorded was 1.4 meters at Sendai Bay.
The US Geological Survey initially measured the earthquake at magnitude-7.3, but later downgraded it to a magnitude-6.9 earthquake.
The JMA measured it as a magnitude-7.3 earthquake and said a tsunami up to 3 meters (10 ft) was imminent. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said all available data cleared Hawaii of a tsunami threat.
The Australian Bureau of Meterology also says there is no tsunami threat for Australia.
— Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (@BOM_au) November 21, 2016
The first waves to reach the coast, which were about 2 feet high, hit Onahama Port in Fukushima at about 6:49 a.m., NBC reported.
On-air reports of waves hitting other areas along Japan’s Pacific Coast were reported on national broadcast station, NHK.
The earthquake was felt in Tokyo and its epicentre was off the coast of the Fukushima prefecture, Reuters reported.
Fukushima is north of Tokyo and was the site of a nuclear disaster following a tsunami that struck the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant after a magnitude 9 earthquake hit the region in 2011. More than 18,000 people were killed in the disaster.
No injuries resulting from the earthquake have yet been reported.
Earlier this morning, officials were “trying to establish what’s gone wrong” at the Fukushima nuclear plant.
Officials at the plant originally said they had noted no irregularities with the plant, but at 9.15am AEDT, news came through that the plant’s water cooling system “appears to have stopped”, although the operator of the plant said there was no immediate danger.
An official spokesperson from operator Tepco says the earthquake “shook” water in the cooling tanks temporarily, leading to a decline in levels.
That triggered a warning and the plant’s cooling systems stopped, possibly as a precaution to stop them in turn overheating.
The cooling pumps have now resumed and the water in the towers is cooling again.
Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga says, “We have been informed that there is no immediate risk of radiation leaks or rise in the temperatures (of the cooling pool).”
Residents are being urged to evacuate immediately.
Authorities warned landslides may occur in some areas, have told people not to return to their homes until all the warnings are lifted.
The Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 killed about 18,000 people.
Less than an hour after the earthquake, the first of many tsunami waves hit Japan’s coastline. The tsunami waves reached up to 39 meters at Miyako city and traveled inland as far as 10 kilometres in Sendai.
Professor James Goff, director of the Australia-Pacific Tsunami Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, told The Australian he would not expect waves to reach the heights of those in 2011, but that the most recent quake could still cause damage.
“One concern is not necessarily the size of the earthquake itself but whether or not it might generate submarine landslides that can themselves generate large tsunamis,” he said.
“Tsunamis as small as 90 cm can be extremely damaging.”
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