Japan hit by Tsunami following earthquake near Fukushima disaster site
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.
Queues of cars were seen snaking away from the coast in the pre-dawn hours after authorities issued a tsunami warning and urged residents to seek higher ground immediately. The warning was lifted nearly four hours later.
There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries hours after the quake hit at 5:59 a.m. (2059 GMT Monday). It was centred off the coast of Fukushima prefecture at a depth of about 10 kilometres (6 miles), the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.
A wave of up to 1.4 metres (4.5 ft) high was recorded at Sendai, about 70 km (45 miles) north of Fukushima, with smaller waves hitting ports elsewhere along the coast, public broadcaster NHK said.
Television footage showed ships moving out to sea from harbours as tsunami warnings wailed after alerts of waves of up to 3 metres (10 feet) were issued.
NHK also showed one person's video of water rushing up a river or canal, but well within the height of the embankment.
It brought back memories of the 2011 disaster, when much larger tsunamis rushed up rivers and overflowed, wiping away entire neighbourhoods.
On Tuesday, tsunami waves were recorded along the coast. The highest one was 1.4 metres in Sendai Bay. A tsunami advisory for waves of up to one metre remained in effect along the coast.
The operator of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant said there were no abnormalities observed at the plant, though a swelling of the tide of up to one metre was detected offshore.
The plant was swamped by the 2011 tsunami, sending three reactors into meltdown and leaking radiation into the surrounding area.
The plant is being decommissioned but the situation remains serious as the utility works out how to remove still-radioactive fuel rods and debris and what to do with the melted reactor cores.
Plant operator TEPCO said a pump that supplies cooling water to a spent fuel pool at the nearby Fukushima Dai-ni plant stopped working, but that a backup pump had been launched to restore cooling water to the pool. Both plants are run by Tokyo-based TEPCO.
Naohiro Masuda, head of TEPCO's decommissioning unit, said he believes that the pump was shut off automatically by a safety system as the water in the pool shook.
He said decommissioning work at the destroyed Dai-ichi plant had been temporarily suspended because of the earthquake.
The US Geological Survey measured the magnitude at 6.9.