A major earthquake struck northern Japan near the Fukushima nuclear plant, triggering small tsunami waves and evacuations around 4 p.m. Eastern Monday (6 a.m. Tuesday in Japan).
The United States Geological Survey measured the quake at 6.9 magnitude, while the Japan Meteorological Agency put it at 7.4.
The tsunami warnings initially predicted waves as tall as 10 feet. People by the coast were urged to evacuate immediately. Early tsunami reports indicated water was rushing out of the harbor at Iwaki City, and the waves were about three feet tall. However, Japanese media are warning that the waves can grow larger as they continue to strike the coast.
“Please understand that this is a very serious situation and evacuate to higher ground,” stated warnings on Japan public broadcaster NHK. “If you are caught in the tsunami wave, you may be washed away.”
The Fukushima plants are currently shut down, but they still have operating cooling systems for spent fuel.
NHK World said external power sources and cooling water for the Fukushima Daiichi plant had not been impacted.
The Fukushima Daini cooling system, which had stopped operating, was restored.
“Now staff are watching closely to see any abnormalities,” NHK reported.
There have been no reports of damage and one report of an injury, according to the London Telegraph. A woman suffered cuts to her head as dishes fell during the quake.
Japan Railways has stopped dozens of bullet trains from operating in eastern Japan so engineers can inspect the tracks.
The earthquake lasted for longer than a minute and caused buildings to sway in Tokyo, about 200 miles to the south.
The following video, purportedly of the quake, was posted on YouTube Monday (Warning: Video contains explicit language that may offend some readers):
Also Reuters reported Monday evening that a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck New Zealand’s Northern Island. On Nov. 18, CNN reported a 7.8 magnitude quake hit New Zealand so hard, it lifted the seabed two meters.
Japan and New Zealand are located along the “Ring of Fire,” a string of volcanoes and areas of tectonic activity that runs along the Pacific coasts of Asia and North and South America. Japan, one of the most earthquake-prone nations on earth, experiences more than 1,000 earthquakes every year.
In 2011, a 9.1 magnitude earthquake devastated Japan and triggered a tsunami of up to 133 feet. Nearly 16,000 people were killed, hundreds of thousands were homeless and thousands were exposed to nuclear radiation.