Japan has activated the tsunami alert on Wednesday after it occurred a magnitude 7.4 earthquake off the coasts of Fukushima and Miyagi, in the northeast of the country. Authorities have reported strong tremors and even power outages.
It has occurred at 23:36 local time (15:36 in Spain) this Wednesday, off the coast of Fukushima and Miyagi (northeast). The information has been provided by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), which initially estimated the magnitude of the earthquake at 7.3 and shortly after issued an alert about a possible tsunami that has already been lifted.
The JMA also has updated the depth of the epicenter from 60 to 57 kilometers. The earthquake, which has been preceded by another earthquake of lesser intensity, has reached to reach level six high on the Japanese scaleout of a maximum of seven and focused on measuring the agitation on the surface and the affected areas, rather than on the intensity of the tremor.
At least four dead and 194 wounded.
After the evaluation of the first damages, they have been counted wounded and deceased in seven prefectures, as well as widespread interruptions in energy supply throughout the country. So far, at least four people have died and 194 have been injured.
On this Thursday morning, the high speed train service linking the capital with the north of the country has been suspended due to the derailment of a bullet train (Shinkansen) traveling from Tokyo to Sendai (Miyagi) with 75 passengers and crew that did not cause serious injuries.
The JMA has asked the citizens caution against the risk of earthquakes of similar intensity in the same areas in the next few days. The Japanese government has held an emergency meeting to coordinate monitoring of the situation and assess the extent of the damage after the tremor.
Power outages and transportation interruption
The earthquake has caused electrical outages in the town of Soma, in Fukushima, as well as in large areas of Tokyo and in the neighboring prefectures of Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama. For its part, the Tokyo Electric Power Company has indicated that around two million homes were without power and that he was checking the status of the reactors at the Fukushima plant, according to the public network NHK.
The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, in the process of being dismantled since the nuclear crisis triggered by the great earthquake of 2011, is currently analyzing if any damage has been caused by the new earthquakeas well as at other nearby atomic facilities, after a turbine fire alarm went off and a used fuel cooling system was interrupted.
The fire alarm was activated after the tremor in the building of reactor 5 of the Fukushima Daiichi (I) plant, which has been inoperative since before the 2011 nuclear crisis, while the failure of the cooling system affects the pools where spent atomic fuel is stored at the Daiini plant (II).
For the time being, the Nuclear Regulation Authority has indicated on his Twitter account what no anomalies have been recorded nor increase in radioactivity and Fumio Kishida has confirmed to the media that “no significant irregularities” have been detected. There has also been no reported damage to oil refineries on the coast.
Several high-speed rail lines have been interrupted in the northeast of the country, while various sections of highways have also been closed as a precaution, as well as the Tokyo Haneda airport. A train with about a hundred passengers has derailed between Fukushima and Shiroishizao stations, apparently without causing any casualties.
The Fukushima Disaster
The same region suffered a major earthquake measuring 9.1 on the Richter scale followed by a tsunami in 2011 that triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster and that left more than 18,000 dead and disappeared. It was considered the worst nuclear catastrophe on record after Chernobyl and led other countries to analyze their nuclear reactors.
Eleven years after the nuclear accident, the surroundings of the Fukushima plant continue to be an exclusion zone, affected by radioactivity, and thousands of people have not been able to return to their homes. According to experts, it could still be 50 years before the plant can be dismantled. After the accident, Japan opted for renewable energy.
In addition to the daunting task of decontaminating and dismantling the nuclear power plant, many other challenges remain, starting with restoring the reputation of local food products, even though their safety is rigorously controlled.
Situated at the crossroads of several major tectonic plates, Japan is regularly affected by earthquakes and has strict building regulations to ensure that its buildings are capable of withstanding strong tremors.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.