TOKYO – residents in the northeast Japan on Sunday cleaned up clutter and rubble in shops and houses after a strong earthquake trigger a landslide on a freeway, damage buildings and parts of high-speed trains, and cause power outages for thousands of people.
The 7.3 magnitude tremor late Saturday rocked the quake-prone areas of Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures, hit by a powerful earthquake 10 years ago that triggered a tsunami and meltdown in a nuclear power plant.
More than 140 people suffered mostly minor injuries, many of them from falling objects and cuts when stepping on broken glass. Three people have been confirmed with serious injuries, but there have been no reports of fatalities, said cabinet chief Katsunobu Kato.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility company for the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant that was hit by the March 2011 disaster, said the water used to cool spent fuel rods near the reactors was spilled due to the shaking. However, according to TEPCO, there were no radiation leaks or other irregularities.
The quake did not cause a tsunami as the epicenter was 55 kilometers below the ocean.
Noriko Kamaya, a spokesman for the Japan Meteorological Agency, said at a news conference that the quake is being viewed as an aftershock of the 9.1 magnitude quake in 2011.
Power was restored early Sunday, although some high-speed trains were still out. East Japan Railway Co. said the north coast bullet train would be suspended until Monday due to damage to its facility.
Tv and video shared on social media showed boxes, books and other items scattered on the floor. In the northern city of Soma in Fukushima, a roof of a Buddhist temple collapsed.
The workers cleared a major coastal road between Tokyo and the northern cities where a major landslide occurred. Some other streets were also blocked by stones.
The strong rattle on Saturday less than a month before the 10th anniversary of the triple disaster in 2011 was a chilling reminder of the earlier tragedy for residents of the region.
“It started with a slight tremor and then suddenly turned violent,” Yuki Watanabe, a supermarket employee in Minamisoma City, Fukushima, told Asahi newspaper. “I was so scared,” she said, reminding her of the 2011 quake.
As she ran outside, she heard popping noises from behind the shop as glass bottles hit the floor from the shelves.
Experts warned of further aftershocks. Many residents spent the night in evacuation centers, where tents were set up as part of coronavirus protection measures.
Yasutoshi Nishimura, Minister in charge of Economic and Fiscal Policy, expressed his condolences to those who suffered damage and injuries.
“The government will continue to do our best to respond,” he said.
Defense forces have also been mobilized in some areas to provide water.
Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama