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14 injured in Japan earthquake

Published 22/11/2016

Firefighters watch the port to check the water level as a tsunami warning is issued following an earthquake in Soma, Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan (AP) (Kyodo News/AP)
Firefighters watch the port to check the water level as a tsunami warning is issued following an earthquake in Soma, Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan (AP) (Kyodo News/AP)

At least 14 people have been injured by a strong earthquake that struck off Japan's north-east coast.

Japan's Fire and Disaster Management Agency said at least three people were seriously injured with broken bones - two women in their 80s and one in her 60s.

Fukushima prefecture said an elderly woman was hit on the head by a cupboard, and a man suffered a knee injury from glass shards while struggling with falling furniture.

The disaster agency also reported that blazes broke out at two non-residential buildings, but that they have been extinguished. No-one was hurt in the fires.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said Tuesday's earthquake was an aftershock of the magnitude 9.0 one which spawned a deadly tsunami in the same region in 2011.

The agency warned that another large quake could hit in the next few days and urged residents to remain cautious for about a week.

Tuesday's magnitude 7.4 quake triggered moderate tsunamis, but nothing high enough to cause major damage. It was the largest earthquake in the north-east Japan region since the 2011 quake, which killed some 18,000 people, and some large aftershocks the same day.

The quake sent residents fleeing to higher ground and triggered fears about the Fukushima nuclear power plant which was destroyed by the tsunami five years ago.

Queues of cars were seen snaking away from the coast in the pre-dawn hours after authorities issued a tsunami warning and urged residents to seek higher ground immediately. The warning was lifted nearly four hours later.

Japanese broadcaster NHK said there were reports of minor damage, and the earthquake shook buildings in Tokyo, 150 miles (241km) south-west of the epicentre.

NHK also showed one person's video of water rushing up a river or canal, but well within the height of the embankment.

It brought back memories of the 2011 disaster, when much larger tsunamis rushed up rivers and overflowed, wiping away entire neighbourhoods.

Kazuhiro Onuki is a former librarian in a town which became a no-go zone because of radiation contamination. He was staying at what he calls one of his temporary homes when Tuesday's earthquake struck.

He said he remembered "3.11" - a reference to the March 11 date of the 2011 disaster.

He added: "It really came back. And it was so awful. The sways to the side were huge. But nothing fell from shelves."

Mr Onuki was alone when the latest earthquake struck and worries it could be a warning of things to come.

Elsewhere, a board of education worker rushed to work after the earthquake to make sure everyone was responding to the evacuation warnings.

Daisuke Kida said the residents are all well-rehearsed on disaster drills after the 2011 tsunami.

On Tuesday, tsunami waves were recorded along the coast. The highest one was 4.6ft (1.4m) in Sendai Bay. A tsunami advisory for waves of up to 3ft (1m) remained in effect along the coast.

The operator of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant said there were no abnormalities observed at the plant, though a swelling of the tide of up to 3ft (1m) was detected offshore.

The plant was swamped by the 2011 tsunami, sending three reactors into meltdown and leaking radiation into the surrounding area.

The plant is being decommissioned but the situation remains serious as the utility works out how to remove still-radioactive fuel rods and debris and what to do with the melted reactor cores.

Plant operator Tepco said a pump that supplies cooling water to a spent fuel pool at the nearby Fukushima Dai-ni plant stopped working, but that a back-up pump had been launched to restore cooling water to the pool. Both plants are run by Tokyo-based Tepco.

Naohiro Masuda, head of Tepco's decommissioning unit, said he believes that the pump was shut off automatically by a safety system as the water in the pool shook.

He said decommissioning work at the destroyed Dai-ichi plant had been temporarily suspended because of the earthquake.

The US Geological Survey measured the magnitude at 6.9.

AP

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