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People wait at JR Sendai Station in Miyagi Prefecture after a large earthquake rocked northeastern Japan on Saturday evening.  --Photo Kyodo

Magnitude 6.9 quake rocks northeastern Japan

JAPAN (Kyodo) -- A strong magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck off the coast of northeastern Japan at a depth of 59 km on Saturday evening at 6:09 pm, just over a month after a quake of similar scale hit the region.
In Miyagi Prefecture, where at least one person was injured, the quake measured up to a strong 5 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale to 7.
The Meteorological Agency issued a tsunami advisory for Miyagi following the quake, though it was lifted at 7:30 pm Some sea level changes may be observed, but no material damage is expected, the agency said.
The agency initially reported the quake’s magnitude as 7.2 before later revising it downward.
Due to the tsunami advisory, the town of Watari in the prefecture issued an evacuation order covering 2,527 homes and 6,911 residents.
Two hundred homes in Kurihara, Miyagi Prefecture, were without power, NHK said. The quake caused the Tohoku Shinkansen and other rail lines to suspend services. Services were expected to resume around 10 pm.
The central government set up a crisis management centre at the Prime Minister’s Office, and is working with related ministries, agencies and local governments to collect information on any damage caused by the quake. In Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, where the quake registered a lower 5, the city has opened evacuation centers at 69 locations.
Municipal fire officials in Miyagi reported no damage from the quake as of 6:30 pm, but were continuing to gather information. No abnormalities were found at nuclear plants in eastern and northeastern Japan, according to their operators.
The tremor was also felt in Tokyo, where it registered up to a 3 on the Japanese scale.
The quake comes nine days after the region marked the 10th anniversary of the magnitude 9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that devastated the region and killed over 15,000 people.
A little over a month ago, a 7.3 temblor struck off neighbouring Fukushima Prefecture. The February 14 quake caused widespread power outages and left dozens injured. Seismologists believe it was an aftershock of the 2011 megaquake.
For some, the quake on Saturday evening brought back memories of the destruction in 2011.
“I recalled that day 10 years ago,” a man in Ishinomaki city told NHK as he fled to a park on a hill. “Because of our experience of that day, I moved quickly. My heart is pounding hard,” he said.
“It was really bad, long shaking from side-to-side. It was even longer than the quake last month, but at least the building here is all right,” Shizue Onodera told the broadcaster from the shop where she works in Ishinomaki.
“Lots of bottles smashed on the floor,” she said. “The electricity is on.”
Others compared it to the strong quake felt just last month.
“Suddenly, the large tremor continued for about 20 seconds,” the broadcaster quoted a disaster official in Iwanuma, Miyagi Prefecture, as saying. “The shaking caused things on a desk to move, but they didn’t fall, and I felt the shaking was smaller than last month’s earthquake.”
Japan sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.

(Latest Update March 21, 2021)

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