Japan: Powerful earthquake hits the coast of Fukushima

A powerful earthquake rocked northern Japan early on Tuesday, briefly disrupting cooling functions at a nuclear plant and generating a small tsunami that hit the same Fukushima region devastated by a 2011 quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

The magnitude 7.4 earthquake, which was felt in Tokyo, sent thousands of residents fleeing for higher ground as dawn broke along the northeastern coast.

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There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries several hours after the quake hit at 5:59 AM. It was centered off the coast of Fukushima prefecture at a depth of about 10 kilometers, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.

The cooling system for a storage pool for spent nuclear fuel at the reactor at its Fukushima Daini Plant was initially halted on Tuesday, said a spokeswoman for Tokyo Electric Power, known as Tepco, but was restarted soon after.

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Fukushima prefecture is north of Tokyo and home to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, site of one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters after a March 2011 earthquake-driven tsunami struck.

The March 11, 2011, quake was magnitude 9, the strongest quake in Japan on record. The massive tsunami it triggered caused world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl a quarter of a century earlier.

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