A magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck off the coast of Japan's Miyagi Prefecture – the region worst affected by the huge March 11 quake and tsunami – at 11:32 p.m. local time on Thursday. Evacuation orders were issued for hundreds of homes along the northeast coastline.
Tsunami advisories were immediately issued, but were lifted approximately one hour later. The quake is the strongest of the hundreds of aftershocks that have shaken Japan since the magnitude 9.0 temblor on March 11. That earthquake caused a tsunami that destroyed thousands of homes, displaced nearly a half million people, and severely crimped the iconic fishing industry there.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) says that the quake hasn’t caused any further damage to the Daiichi nuclear power plant and that all the workers have been temporarily evacuated from the facilities. There were no injuries reported.
Two out of three external power lines to the Onagawa nuclear power plant, 75 miles northeast of Fukushima and near the epicenter of Thursday's temblor, have been damaged, causing power loss. The plant, operated by Tohoku Electric Power, has been shut down since the March 11 quake and has been relying on external power to cool the reactors. Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency said the two lost power lines were not being used for cooling when tonight’s earthquake hit.
The Oshika Peninsula, on which the Onagawa plant is located, was also the closest part of the main Honshu island of Japan to the March 11 earthquake, which shifted the whole peninsula 27 feet to the southeast and sunk it 7 feet. The March 11 tsunami reached heights of 42.5 feet, just below the base of the nuclear plant.
The Meteorological Agency has said that no increased radiation levels have been detected around the plant.
Electricity blackouts have occurred across the northeast region and some highways have been closed.
The Tohoku, Joetsu, and Nagoya bullet train lines were stopped but were able to restart shortly afterwards. The lines closest to the earthquake had not resumed operations since March 11.